Cisco to Launch Phone for WiFi Networks

Monday, April 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Cisco Systems Inc. is launching in June a mobile phone that uses the popular WiFi wireless technology.

The phone, being announced Monday, is intended for those who move around in the workplace, like nurses and warehouse workers, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco said.

It is not the first phone to use WiFi, but the announcement from networking giant Cisco bolsters the already considerable momentum behind the wireless technology, which allows computers to connect to the Internet within 100 yards of base stations.

The Cisco Wireless IP Phone 7920 can use such base stations to connect to phone networks that use the local wired data network instead of regular phone lines.

Such IP, or Internet Protocol, phone networks have been gaining in popularity among corporations.

Even though it looks like a cell phone, the 7920 works much as ordinary office phones do. It can hold, transfer and conference calls, Cisco vice president Marthin De Beer said.

De Beer said the phone would be useful for employees and executives who move around within an office or campus, and for those who travel between a company's offices.

``Say you have a WiFi phone in the San Francisco office. If you travel to the London office, you can use the same number,'' De Beer said.

The phone can also be used in hospitals, some of which ban cell phones because the radio signals may interfere with medical electronics.

It will list for $595, has 3.5 hours of talk time and 24 hours of standby time per charge.

Analyst Galen Schreck at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. said most companies that use WiFi have relatively isolated areas of coverage, meaning mobile WiFi phones are somewhat ahead of their time.

``It's for a cutting-edge kind of company,'' he said, noting that equipment is on the way that makes full-coverage WiFi networks easier to set up.

Symbol Technologies, otherwise mostly known for portable bar-code scanners, launched a WiFi phone last year. Startup Vocera sells two-way voice-controlled walkie-talkie-like devices that use WiFi networks.

Several companies cell-phone manufacturers are working on phones that use both cellular and WiFi networks.