As Nortel launches into voice over Wi-Fi, so has Alcatel.

Both are using wireless switches from Airespace and handsets from Spectralink, but Alcatel claims to have a more pragmatic approach.

"We have products in common, but we are trying to provide a broader announcement," said Brian Witt, director of product marketing at Alcatel. The company remains committed to other on-site mobile voice products, including DECT standard (even though Airespace disagrees). "Nortel has dropped DECT and PWT," said Witt. "We believe those are an important part of the enterprise network. There are practical ways to transition from one technology to another."

Voice over wireless LAN is still new, and standards for quality of service are still evolving, so moving to it is still a high-risk option that will not suit everyone, said Witt: "The Spectralink handsets will make most sense where the WLAN is being used for data and there are a small number of mobile voice users. Otherwise it may be more cost effective to install a DECT infrastructure."

Alcatel is emphasizing Airespace's strengths, such as roaming across subnets and RF management: "Even when an access point is forwarding data on channel six, it can monitor for rogue devices on all channels," said Witt. "Most equipment requires you to install an overlay network for monitoring."

The Airespace products are built into an enterprise architecture including allowing the Airespace RF management product to act as an element manager for Alcatel's own OmniVista network management suite.

With two networking big guns backing them, the deals won't do any harm to Airespace or Spectralink. Shares in the latter jumped 27 percent on the day the Nortel and Alcatel deals were announced.