Nortel has launched voice over wireless LAN capability - offering enterprises a serious competitor to Cisco's wireless IP phone.

The Canadian network equipment giant last night launched four WLAN options for the aspiring wireless office.

The first, "Adaptive Solution", provides IP Telephony over WLAN primarily using the company's WLAN Handsets 2210 and 2211 and its WLAN IP Telephony Manager 2245. The 2211 allows for walkie-talkie style communications. Nortel pointed out that it also employed its new WLAN Security Switch 2270. Earlier this year the company, along with Alcatel, signed OEM deals with WLAN access point provider Airespace and wireless handset maker SpectraLink which also provides QoS software so that voice traffic can be prioritised over 802.11.

Nortel said that the second package in its portfolio, the "Hybrid Solution", offered additional visitor-networking capability with security. Thirdly, "Stand Alone Solution" offered the ability to create isolated WLANs within the user organisation with security at each access point.

And lastly, "Wireless Mesh Architecture" is aimed at open warehouse or campus environments that have no LAN or sites that want to extend WLAN service beyond an existing LAN.

Chris Lewis, director at the Yankee Group communications consultancy, said that although IP telephony had proved expensive in pilot schemes, the market was taking off. "Since Cisco created the market, Avaya, Nortel and Ericsson have been coming through with new and different solutions. The market seems to be getting a bit more leverage now," he said.

"It does makes sense to take it wireless. If you think about the executives and sales staff moving around, if they have seamless roaming they'll do that. How many times do you see people using mobiles in the office when they could be using a regular phone?"

But he reiterated that cost of ownership appeared to be an issue in general IP telephony roll outs - unless they were at greenfield sites. "It's fine if you have a new HQ," he said, "like Heinz in Manchester." But otherwise the upgrade costs could be prohibitive.

Nortel was keen to point out that its "Adaptive Solution" was aimed at new WLAN deployments. "It enables enterprises to combine the cost benefits of using IP voice with the mobility advantages of secure wireless," it said.

Other than the Cisco wireless IP phone, launched last year, Mitel offers the Symbol MiNet and BCM of Taiwan is touting the HP 500. Others, such as the Audacity T2U, are in development.