Feature Article

February 06, 2014

Taqua Unveils VoWiFi Solution

Voice over LTE is supposed to launch in a significant way this year, says research firm iGR, with several major U.S. mobile operators expected to make VoLTE commercially available on a widespread basis in the second half. But VoLTE is extremely difficult to implement, and even when it is available there will still be in-building reach issues, says John Hoadley, CTO of wireless at Taqua, which today unveiled a voice over Wi-Fi solution.

Given that 80 percent of all mobile data traffic is streamed indoors, 39 to 61 percent of offices have noticeably poor in-building coverage, and Wi-Fi is so broadly available and used, it makes perfect sense to leverage Wi-Fi not only for data but also for voice, says Hoadley, noting that the first two bits of information above came from an AT&T presentation given at the LTE North America event in Dallas.

Seventy percent of data is carried by Wi-Fi already, leveraging Wi-Fi for voice as well is a no-brainer for carriers, adds Frederick Reynolds, Taqua vice president of marketing.

“Wi-Fi is the largest network in the world, period,” he says. “And it’s gotten a lot better as time has gone on.”

While major cellular carriers are involved in moving this model forward, it also makes sense with any company with a large network, like a cable TV company or even an outfit like Boingo Wireless, Reynolds adds.

Based on the Taqua Virtual Mobile Core, this VoWiFi solution leverages the small cell technology Taqua got via its 2011 acquisition of Tatara Systems. The new solution includes two components, some software in the network that can run on an industry-standard server, and a client on the user’s smartphone. The in-network piece does SIP translations and essentially acts as a switch. The client piece, available initially only for Android devices, checks for Wi-Fi access points on which the user is registered and if it sees one it turns off the device’s cellular connection and instead sends all communications through the Wi-Fi.

“This is all integrated with your existing device” and it’s not an over-the-top capability like Skype, explains Hoadley.

One of Taqua’s service provider partners worked with suppliers of Android devices to put the client on their phones so it’s available out of the box when consumers purchase the devices, he says. Hoadley declined to provide an indication as to when Android devices with the VoWiFi client would begin shipping or to disclose the identity of the service provider partner involved.

Taqua is also working with the Android ecosystem to deliver a downloadable client for older devices or endpoints that are distributed by other methods than cellular carriers, Hoadley adds. In the second quarter Taqua will be in trials with a service provider outside the U.S. that is offering the VoWiFi capability based on downloadable clients. Taqua is also working to make available downloadable clients for iOS devices.

While the VoWiFi solution from Taqua can be viewed as an alternative to VoLTE, Taqua Virtual Mobile Core also supports some VoLTE applications, so service providers that leverage the solution can use it later for that purpose. However, Hoadley expects that its VoWiFi application will have a lifespan of a decade or more.

“Every technology is a transition technology to a certain degree,” he says.

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