Wi-Fi and VoIP: Do them together or not at all

And stop banging on about how cheap it is, vendors told

And stop banging on about how cheap it is, vendors told

While running voice over IP networks (VoIP) and the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard have been getting tech sellers and users alike stirred up over the possibilities for converged communications, a new report warns that promoting individual technologies rather than collaborative technology could leave businesses wondering where the benefits are.

There's no getting away from the advent of VoIP with previous security and standards hurdles now largely overcome – but vendors' short-sighted approach has gone down badly with users and may even be holding up adoption, said Mark Blowers, senior research analyst at Butler Group.

"There's a tendency for vendors to focus on specific technology when enterprises want solutions to problems not just to install some technology... This year was meant to be the year for VoIP and it's not taken off as much as expected," he said.

The statistics back up the slow adoption of Wi-Fi and VoIP: according to a recent Forrester Research study, only about 20 per cent of organisations had completed or were in the process of rolling out Wi-Fi, with around 15 per cent saying they had completed or were in the process of rolling out VoIP.

And while flogging technology on the basis of cost might be a good way to get the cash flowing, it doesn't do vendors or users any favours – Butler Group believes there's more to be had from the technology, including better CRM, easier data access and collaboration, as well as improvements in business processes and productivity.

Blowers told silicon.com: "In some aspects, when budgets were tight, promoting converged communications on cost was the right approach but now there needs to be a move to offer more than just cost savings – [Wi-Fi and VoIP] can fundamentally improve business processes."

With a remote workforce becoming the reality rather than the dream – Gartner predicts that by 2008, three-quarters of the global workforce will be mobile – Butler Group believes that converged communications will be commonplace in five years' time, with mobile workers' need for data access wherever they are on whatever device they use leading the drive for a single voice and date network.

Butler Group's report, Communications Convergence: Evolving to a next generation IP-based network, adds that it's not just users that benefit from a converged approach. Operators such as BT and vendors like Cisco – and potentially Alcatel and Siemens - who can offer converged rather than isolated technology will be the most successful in the medium to long term.