Concrete plans for enterprise deployments of voice over wireless LANs seem iffy and potentially dependent on industry progress.

That's the conclusion from the Webtorials "2005 Wireless LAN State-of-the-Market Report," sponsored this year by Colubris Networks. The report, which also found users wary of Wi-Fi security, is based on a survey that culled responses from 419 survey-takers worldwide.

Users are waiting for better products
Wireless VoIP is certainly on user radar screens, but enterprises seem to be occupying their time first with data-centric deployments and awaiting the arrival of industry-sanctioned quality of service (QoS) and roaming standards before turning their attention to the voice portion of their implementations.

Mobile VoIP was cited as a driver behind Wi-Fi deployments by just 20 percent of the Webtorials respondents (multiple responses allowed), who took the survey in March 2005; and fewer than one-quarter are already deploying wireless VoIP on the Wi-Fi networks.

Organisations might be waiting for industry technology to catch up to the nonstop uptime and strict latency requirements of VoIP before going down the voice-over Wi-Fi path, figuring they already have their hands full figuring out the mobility, security and integration requirements of adding WLANs to their network infrastructures.

Why do it? Better access
The primary reason users cited for being interested in VoIP over Wi-Fi, sometimes now shortened to "VoFi," is similar in nature to their justification for using WLANs in the first place: simply having better access to mobile employees roaming around campus or, put another way, to improve the productivity of knowledge workers locally on the go.

However, saving money compared with cell phone usage while on campus and simplified movement of user workstations were also cited as reasons to deploy voice.

802.11a still in the doldrums
In a potentially related finding, 802.11a's popularity didn't fare much better in this year's survey than it did last year.
Surprisingly, only about one-quarter of respondents indicated plans to deploy the 54 bit/s technology with its 24 to 27 available channels (depending on geographic region), and nearly one-third said they would not deploy it.

One big potential benefit of 802.11a could be segmenting real-time traffic, such as VoFi, as a QoS technique. However, there are no 802.11a VoIP handsets that I know of on the market, so, again, some of these results could be indicative of the market waiting for industry to catch up.