RoamAD has been building wide-coverage metropolitan wireless LANs for years, with deployments in its home country, New Zealand, neighboring Australia, Europe, Asia, and North Americain short, just about all over the world.
This year the firm undertook an informal survey of existing customers, industry partners, and prospective purchasers of its metro Wi-Fi equipment in an effort to get a fix on the importance of mobile voice as a key application.
The results indicate a major shift in thinking over the course of the 12 months tracked. "The key driver is rapidly becoming mobile VoIP, not mobile data, " said Martyn Levy, vice president of business development at Roam AD.
In fact, more than 75 percent of network operators and service providers surveyed now have mobile VoIP (specifically mobile VoWi-Fi) identified as a mandatory requirement for new metro Wi-Fi networks. "It's no longer just a nice-to-have," Levy said.
Furthermore, about half those polled in the last three months specifically identify mobile voice being either as important as, or more important than, mobile data service. By contrast, 12 months ago, fewer than 10 percent indicated voice as a core application on metro Wi-Fi nets.
"RoamAD's findings do not surprise me. All the municipalities I've been talking to who have plans to roll out a citywide Wi-Fi network want to move their employees' voice and data communications to the city network," said Esme Vos, founder of www.muniwireless.com.
"The increase in availability of dual-mode, Wi-Fi/cellular phones and SIP handsets, coupled with the decrease in prices for metro Wi-Fi network equipement, means tha tmetro Wi-Fi now represents the most cost-effective way to deploy a mobile voice network," Levy added.
Indeed, this week, BellSouth this week announced a trial of Wi-Fi/cellular phone service to begin later this summer in the Atlanta area. Smaller municipalities are beginning to deoploy wireless LAN-based phone service in many locations.