Cisco jumps out with wireless IP phone

Cisco Systems Inc. is offering a new mobile telephone for use with its IP Communications systems and voice over IP (VoIP) technology, the company said Monday.

The Cisco Wireless IP Phone 7920 connects to an organization’s IP network through wireless access points using the common 802.11b wireless communications protocol and is being marketed for organizations with mobile workforces such as hospitals, retailers and universities, Cisco said.

With the announcement, Cisco threw its hat in with a handful of other companies that are pioneering the development of mobile phones that rely on wireless LANs (WLANs) rather than traditional cellular networks to communicate.

Also on Monday, SpectraLink Corp., in Boulder, Colo., announced two mobile wireless handsets: the NetLink e340 and i640 Wireless Telephones.

Like the Cisco 7920, the SpectraLink phones use the 802.11b protocol to connect to WLANs and access VoIP networks or circuit-switched private branch exchange (PBX) interfaces, according to SpectraLink.

While VoIP networks have been gaining in popularity among organizations looking to simplify voice and data management, applications are limited for VoIP handsets that rely on WLANs.

Cisco’s announcement of the 7920 emphasized its utility in environments “with reliable access to Cisco IP Communications systems” such as warehouses and corporate campuses of companies with global operations.

However, the wireless IP phones that have come to market so far cannot communicate with cellular phone networks and do not operate beyond the reach of the corporate WLAN, making them a tough sell for professionals who want one phone that can be used within the office and when traveling.

The 7920 was first unveiled at a Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas in April and will join Cisco’s desktop IP phones, the 7960 and 7905G, in the company’s growing line of IP telephony products.

Also on Monday, the San Jose networking equipment maker announced two other IP phones. The 7902G and the 7912G are entry-level IP phone models that are priced to compete with other digital PBX phone sets, Cisco said.

The 7920 will cost US$595 and will begin shipping in June, according to Cisco. The 7902 and 7905 are available immediately and cost US$130 and US$165, respectively, Cisco said.

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