Aruba Bets On UMA

By  Jessica Binns — February 01, 2008

Interested in an Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) solution to help save on voice expenses in your enterprise? Aruba Networks is field testing its UMA solution with a number of clients, including universities, healthcare facilities and enterprises.
Peter Thornycroft, technology advocate for Aruba and author of its new UMA whitepaper, "Fixed Mobile Convergence with UMA for Enterprises," says that "[cellular] service providers have looked at UMA as a residential option. We've always thought it was applicable to SMBs and enterprises. Anyone who works inside/ outside is the target user."
The promise of seamless roaming between local and wide area networks has tremendous appeal for enterprises, although adoption has its challenges (See Infrastructure, pages 36-37).
Thornycroft says Aruba has been approached in the last several months by clients such as hospitals and universities that are interested in leveraging the basic technology of T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home and WiFi-enabled BlackBerry devices. The former improves cellular coverage indoors, while the latter enables Voice over WiFi when in range of wireless networks, which helps users save their plan minutes.
UMA, which operates on the GSM/WCDMA standards, is a "big deal" from an enterprise point of view, says Thornycroft, who describes the technology as a carrier-centric Fixed- Mobile Convergence architecture.
"Businesses expect to save money and improve coverage, plus help with international roaming," he says. And enterprises with WiFi or WLAN networks are concerned about security and quality of service. As a result, Thornycroft says enterprises are asking, "Is it possible to run UMA over the top of our infrastructure?"
There are still a few kinks to be worked out; Thornycroft reports some issues such as connectivity problems when moving between access points and glitches with authentication.
Aruba's UMA solution requires no special software. Instead, there are "unique things in our [network] architecture configuration," says Thornycroft. These include a tightly controlled firewall and rules written to direct cell phone traffic to UMA whenever possible. However, it is possible to overload an access point with voice traffic, Thornycroft reports in the whitepaper. An access point can safely handle about 12-25 voice users. Otherwise, calls likely will be negatively impacted.
One hurdle in UMA, says Thornycroft, is that vendors of UMA phones have experience in cellular but not WiFi technology. As the industry advances, users should expect phones with improved handoff capabilities and other technologies. For example, some dual-mode phones can now shut down their powerdraining WiFi radios when not in use, in order to preserve battery life.  //


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