WLAN switch vendor Meru Networks—which focuses on providing voice over Wi-Fi capabilities on its systems—says that three of the top VoIP providers to corporations in Japan have settled on Meru as their preferred provider of wireless infrastructure.
The companies— Oki Electric, Hitachi, and Fujitsu —provide SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) servers and Wi-Fi-only handsets. They also work with the NTT DoCoMo dual-mode handset that supports both 3G cellular and Wi-Fi, which Meru says is the only one currently available in the world.
"Japan as a market is between six to nine months ahead of the U.S. in terms of deployment of voice over IP over wireless LAN," says Meru's recently-hired CEO, Ihab Abu-Hakima. He says all three of the company's new partners have put the Meru product line through testing, but no changes were required on any of the products to work together. "They've integrated our product into their overall solution, and that provides an end-to-end solution."
Meru's WLAN has already been deployed by at least two customers, the large-scale furniture supplier ITOKI and the Hyatt Regency Osaka. In the former, the ITOKI campus runs an Oki SIP server and employees use the DoCoMo dual-LAN phone—when they leave the campus, they can still make or receive calls on the cellular network. In the latter, the Meru equipment provides Internet connections throughout the 500 rooms in the 28-floor hotel, and hotel employees stay mobile using Wi-Fi-based phones.
Back in the United States, VoWLAN is hot, but not hot enough to seal deals like this yet. Meru says it is already working with some companies that are the stateside equivalents of its Japanese partners. "These are equipment manufacturers, not just VoIP but also traditional networking equipment," says Kamal Anand, vice president of marketing at Meru. Companies mentioned include Avaya, Cisco, Siemens and Nortel—but all are in various states of deals with other WLAN switch equipment providers. Ultimately, he says, the domestic pairings are put together by value added resellers (VARs) and system integrators.