Nokia has grabbed VoIP by the horns with a line of enterprise mobile phones unveiled on Wednesday.
Grouped under the banner Eseries, the three new phones have built-in support for 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. "Put an IPBX in the enterprise and suddenly we have the capability to make this a genuine replacement phone for the desk, running VoIP for the wireless LAN," said Nicholas Savander, senior vice-president for business devices enterprise solutions.
Nokia said the phones, which are due out in the New Year, all come with a SIP client. This means they should handle VoIP calls through PBXs that have SIP servers, though Nokia will not make any guarantees of compatibility; it will leave that to the operators who sell the phones.
All three models in the Eseries range have the same software stack, including the applications needed for email connectivity, security, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but come in different shapes and sizes. The wide, BlackBerry-like E61 (pictured below) has a qwerty keypad beneath the screen, while the E70 looks like an update of the old 6822, with its flip-up keyboard which revealed a qwerty keyboard beneath, and the E60 looks more like a traditional mobile phone.
At the launch in London on Wednesday, Nokia representatives demonstrated the E60 making a call to another E60 in the room over a Wi-Fi router linked to a SIP server running on a notebook PC.
The phones are very much geared to corporate roll-out by IT departments, said Nokia, though they will be available for individual purchase too. Individuals who want to use the VoIP functionality with services such as Skype will have to source their own third-party VoIP client for Symbian — on which the three new phones are based — said Nokia.
Savander was careful to avoid spooking operators with talk of VoIP. "This is not an operator's nightmare," he said. "The feedback from the operators has been very good, as traffic on VoIP has little or no impact on GSM revenues. Most operators are pursuing WLAN as an alternative strategy."
Support for VoIP is one element in what Nokia calls its "check list" for all phones that will be released under the Eseries brand. Delivery of business-class mobile email from behind a corporate email, together with integrated security that supports remote wipe, remote locking and remote configuration of the phones, are among the other elements of the checklist.