Bungle in the Jungle: Wireless VoIP in Laos


Vonage for one of the phone lines in my home and run it over the service I get from my WISP (wireless internet service provider). Some have written me asking how well that works. The answer is "not very well." The problem is my wireless connection. Right now, I get between 20-30% packet loss when the connection works. That doesn't make for a good phone call. Since there's no QoS, downloading a large file can make a cell phone seem like a dream connection. I'm hoping to get my wireless connection fixed soon and I'll let you know how that changes things. Meanwhile, I found a great article about an engineer using Wi-Fi and VoIP to provide voice circuits in the jungle.

Mike Burns was asked to provide voice and data services to a gold-mining operation in the middle of a Laotian jungle. The problem was that wires, buried or overhead, weren't an option. The solution was a Wi-Fi connection. Burns used router-based QoS to make things work.

The article also talks about two VoIP over Wi-Fi solutions deployed at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore and the University of Southern California University Hospital (USCUH) in Los Angeles. In these instances, giving medical staff mobile voice communications was the goal. The Mercy installation uses Vocera devices like the one shown on the right. Mercy also plans to deploy tablet PCs to their nursing staff, giving the Wi-Fi network the chance to carry data.

Convergence is just a fancy way of saying "do more with less" because convergence allows one device or infrastructure to do the a job that required two or more before. Its the chief cornerstone of the computing age--general purpose computers are convergence machines. I've written about understanding the total cost of ownership for Wi-Fi, but haven't dealt much with the other side of that inequality: benefit. The move toward developing Wi-Fi standards such as 802.11i andĘ802.11e which will better support QoS, and thus VoIP, will enable convergence. This is crucial to increasing the benefit of Wi-Fi to organizations so that they see it as a "must-have" technology rather than merely a convenience.