Cisco cuts IP phone wires with 7920

With the recent release of a wireless IP phone – the 7920 – Cisco Systems Inc. is prepared to build upon its past success in the world of voice-data convergence, according to one telecom analyst.

The 7920 is an IP phone designed to work over a company’s local area network (LAN); but unlike other IP handsets, it requires no connection wires. Lacking wires, the 7920 gives users a dial tone as if they were sitting at their desks, but also offers them the freedom of mobility, allowing users to move about the office and maintain voice connectivity.

The 7920 works over several of Cisco’s Aironet Series products including the 350, 1100 and 1200 lines, which are all 802.11b and Wi-Fi-compliant, according to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards.

But the 7920 requires Cisco’s Call Manager infrastructure to work, so the device isn’t compatible with wireless voice over IP (VoIP) equipment from other manufacturers, including Nortel Networks, 3Com Corp. and TeleSym Inc.

Chris Bazinet, Toronto-based manager of marketing in product and technology services at Cisco Systems Canada Co., explained that the 7920 offers conferencing capabilities, caller ID, call forwarding and up to six lines on the phone.

Users can also connect the 7920 to their desktop or laptop computers via a USB port and download directory information, or feature sets from Cisco’s Web site.

Cisco says it is targeting organizations with mobile needs, such as those in the health care, warehouse, retail and education sectors with the 7920.

Trimble Navigation Ltd., a provider of Global Positioning System (GPS), laser and optical positioning technologies, began beta testing the 7920 in January. The company’s interest in wireless VoIP began after it had completed its VoIP project last year, said Stanley Ching, corporate network manager at Trimble in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Ching said Trimble discovered some cost savings when it moved to VoIP.

“We were looking to carry our voice traffic over our data network and that takes away a huge chunk of our communications cost,” he said. In addition, for some of the company’s 2,000 mobile workers, connecting back to the office remotely “is huge for us,” and reason enough to deploy the 7920.

Warren Chaisatien, senior telecom analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, points out the IP market is “still emerging,” but large organizations are beginning to install VoIP solutions, particularly hospitals, universities and manufacturing plants. Given the price of the 7920 (US$595), the phone seems most well-suited to the enterprise, he noted.

Chaisatien was not concerned that Cisco is following other vendors already in the space, including Nortel Networks, 3Com and TeleSym.

“This market isn’t overly crowded now and there’s room for a handful of vendors to try and grab a piece of this market,” he said, adding that although Cisco’s phone isn’t compatible with the Nortel and 3Com gear, the vendor can continue to play the heterogeneous game because the technology is so new.

The 7920 is a dedicated IP phone and not able to connect to cellular networks such as those built on Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) or Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology. “You need the infrastructure to use VoIP and this IP phone,” Chaisatien said.

Cisco’s Bazinet said the company is working on enabling a virtual private network (VPN) for the phone so users could connect to the Internet. “We’re also in discussion with cellular vendors as well as service providers of maybe…integrating with GSM or CDMA and Wi-Fi technology to the phones.”

If this happens, Chaisatien said, “there will no longer be the need for this type of dedicated device.”

The 7920 sells for US$595 and will be available this month. For more information, visit the company at