Should You Be Selling Mobile VoIP?
Wireless VARs, mobile computing VARs, networking VARs, and VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) VARs have largely shied away from selling voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) solutions in the past. VoWi-Fi entails sending voice packets over a wireless LAN (WLAN), which has traditionally been a data-only architecture. Some of the problems that plagued VoWi-Fi were insufficient bandwidth and difficulty controlling QoS (quality of service). But, the technology has matured a lot over the past year. In fact, during my attendance at the Interop show in Las Vegas, I discovered that several of the big players in the VoWi-Fi space (e.g. Aruba Networks, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Meru Networks, and Symbol Technologies) all have major customers that have successfully implemented voice-enabled wireless networks. So, you can’t blame it on the technology any longer. The questions you need to ask yourself are: How beneficial is this technology to your customers, and what is the driving force behind VoWi-Fi adoption?
Voice Over Wi-Fi Offers Competitive Advantages Over Cellular
To really capitalize on VoWi-Fi opportunities, VARs should keep mobile workers top of mind. Think about how often cell phones are used in the workplace, for example. An August 2005 study by Strategy Analytics revealed that 22% of mobile workers use their mobile devices even while sitting at their desks. Why is this the case? Because mobile workers become familiar with using their cell phones, and their customers, vendors, and other business contacts become accustomed to calling them on their cell phones. Plus, they have all their important contacts programmed into their cell phones. This trend is causing a number of challenges for end users. One problem is that companies are put in a pickle if the mobile worker leaves the company. How do they know their customers aren’t still calling the former employee after he has left the company? Also, some facilities, such as hospitals, need to restrict cell phone use to outside of the building because of concerns about cellular microwaves interfering with heart pacemakers. And, some companies’ facilities are located in poor coverage areas — either because of a lack of cell phone towers or because of the structure of their facilities. These are all excellent opportunities for VARs to solve their customers’ problems with a VoWi-Fi solution.
VoIP is much more than just a cheaper phone service — it’s about providing your client with mission-critical apps that enable them to run their businesses more efficiently and effectively. Likewise, mobility is no longer just a convenience for customers with big budgets, but it’s become a necessity. By understanding how VoIP and mobility are complementary and necessary, you’ll be in a better position to help your customers. And, you’ll distinguish yourself from the hardware and software box movers in the process. (For a real-world example of a VAR that’s selling this technology, check out systems integrator NetTeks Technology Consultants, Inc.’s story on page 26.)