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CTIA: AirWalk linking the enterprise PBX to the femtocell

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A growing number of vendors are targeting femtocells at the enterprise with the goal of extending wide area cellular coverage to the office, but AirWalk Communications posits that the femtocell could be so much more, becoming not just an extension of the enterprise voice network, but replacing the enterprise wireless LAN entirely.

Today AirWalk unveiled the enterprise version of its femto solution, the EdgePoint Pro, a miniature base station that can be mounted in a server rack and support up to 28 simultaneous calls. Like other enterprise femto platforms, the EdgePoint comes with mobility management functions that allow a cluster of femto cells to act as a group network rather than as individual isolated devices, but AirWalk has also added enterprise features to the device that allow the phone to act as an extension of the IP PBX. Standard PBX features such as 4-number dialing, call forwarding, waiting and directory services could be grafted onto any handset supporting a session initiation protocol (SIP) client.

AirWalk CEO Serge Pequeux said that more and more people are using their cellphones as their primary work devices even while at the office. Instead of using the femtocell to expand the public wireless network inside the confines of the enterprise, why not bring the private enterprise network to the public one? What’s more a network of femtocells could be used to replace the corporate WLAN network entirely. AirWalk will offer both CDMA 1X and 1X EV-DO versions of the device, meaning an enterprise could deploy data femtos alongside of voice femtos. Such as set-up would create a data overlay, which an entire cell of EV-DO capacity dedicated to just a few users. Since the data-femto would form part of a private network backhauled through the enterprise’s own data connection, the operator wouldn’t have to worry about broadband capacity being siphoned off from the macro network.

In the GSM-UMTS world, operators and vendors are exploring using unlicensed mobile access (UMA), which currently powers many residential dual-mode Wi-Fi deployments, as a means of tunneling voice traffic from enterprise femto network to the operator’s core. AirWalk and several other vendors are backing a different route, though, opting instead to bring the SIP protocols that power VoIP networks to wireless. Optimally a SIP-based femto network would seamlessly meld into an IP multimedia subsystem architecture, but as IMS is still a ways off in most operators, they would need to deploy convergence servers to connect their legacy voice networks to the SIP-based architecture at the enterprise.

Last year, AirWalk, Tatara Systems and Tango networks collaborated to demonstrate just such a convergence solution. Tango’s supplied its Abrazo platform, which extends PBX functions to the mobile phone. AirWalk supplied its femtocell, while Tatara’s convergence server linked the network back to the operator’s network.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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