Just when you thought it was impossible to memorize one more mobile technology abbreviation, VoFi (voice over IP over Wi-Fi) technology is promising higher voice quality and more reliable indoor coverage than cellular phones' potentially making it the next big thing in mobile voice communications.
VoFi is the transmittal of voice signals over a Wi-Fi network, and the technology has already been featured in a number of dual-mode (cellular and LAN) phones from Symbol and Cisco. Aside from improved coverage and quality, another benefit of dual-mode phones is lower cell phone bills, since dual-modes function not only as a cell phone but also work over the LAN in office buildings.
Previously, dual-mode phones were catering to specific niche markets, says Maribel Lopez, a VP at Forrester Research. "We're starting to see that people are trying to move VoFi into a mainstream market." In fact, a recent study conducted by Forrester Research found that out of 285 telecom decision makers in U.S. firms, 47 percent were interested in adopting dual-mode phones.
Despite the significant interest in the technology, there are technical and financial issues that need to be resolved before a widespread rollout can occur, says Lopez. First, VoFi must be able to assure seamless handoffs between access points. "If you're in an office building, it's not easy for your phone to roam between floors."
Also, the price of dual-mode handsets may be too high, says Lopez. "You have to convince someone it's worth buying another phone in addition to a cell phone you already have' which is a hard sell, financially. If you're in a hospital and you can't have cell phones, then VoFi would have clear benefits." However, in a typical office building, benefits such as increased productivity are less quantifiable.
"There's a lot of interest, but VoFi still has to work out the technical and economic issues," says Lopez. "While there's significant interest, which will keep the momentum going forward, I would caution people to not assume a year or two from now that people will be using VoFi dual-mode phones. That's going to take awhile.