Wi-Fi for Mobile Gets a Certified Voice

From wired to wireless, you have more ways than ever to make a low-cost or free call using Voice over IP (VoIP) The industry group Wi-Fi Alliance has announced a certification program this week for “Voice Over Wi-Fi.” The program will test both the interoperability of devices as well their performance in making calls.

Products that pass receive a Wi-Fi Certified Voice Personal certification.

A handful of networking products, including certain Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) products used in notebooks, have received the certification already, with others in the near-term pipeline.

So-called converged devices supporting Wi-Fi are now increasingly available from carriers such as T-Mobile and others.

“We work with many of the key companies before some of these products are commercially available to get them certified,” Edgar Figueroa, executive director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, told InternetNews.com. “There are some converged phones that will be announced shortly that have already received the Voice-Personal certification.”

While VoIP calls often lack the quality and consistency of landlines, Figueroa said the Voice-Personal certification process is designed to minimize such issues. He said that among a battery of tests, the Alliance tests for key metrics related to voice: packet loss, latency and jitter. Certified products would consistently prioritize voice communications over data, audio, or video traffic.

Figueroa explained that tests for latency and jitter are designed to measure how long it takes a transmission to get from point A to point B (latency) while “jitter” refers to consistency in the transmission topping out at 50 milliseconds to achieve certification.

“If the jitter is more than 50 milliseconds or changes and jumps around, that’s not acceptable,” Figueroa said. “And no more than 1 percent packet loss. Any device that fails these tests is unacceptable.”

The availability of Wi-Fi access points has been growing enormously for several years. ABI Research reported this week that shipments of consumer-oriented 802.11n Wi-Fi access points are expected to see a dramatic increase over the next five years, rising from just 6 million this year to a forecast 88 million in 2013.

Another research firm confirms rapid growth for converged devices. “We are seeing increasing expectations from wireless subscribers that handsets include Wi-Fi technology to handle both voice and data, and carriers are responding in kind with an interesting array of offerings combining Wi-Fi and cellular service,” said Victoria Fodale, manager of market data/intelligence for In-Stat, in a statement.

“Delivering a high-quality user experience with Voice over Wi-Fi will be critical to the success of converged service offerings, so the Wi-Fi Certified Voice-Personal testing program is an important step for the industry,” she said.

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