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SpectraLink, a manufacturer of enterprise-class wireless phones, has introduced a new series of 802.11 wireless IP phones.

According to the company, the new NetLink 8000 Series phones will support 802.11a, b and g. There will initially be two phones, the 8020 and the 8030, the latter of which will feature push-to-talk capability.

“SpectraLink first launched Wi-Fi handsets in 1999,” said Ben Guderian, vice president of marketing at SpectraLink, in Boulder, Colo. He said that the new handsets continue SpectraLink’s leadership in Wi-Fi voice technology. “It’s the first enterprise handset that supports a, b and g protocols,” he said.

“A lot has to do with where the enterprise Wi-Fi network is headed,” Guderian said, explaining the company’s move. “As we see customers looking for alternatives to 11b, they can now support whatever handset technology they choose to use,” he said.

Guderian said that SpectraLink’s new phones fit exactly what enterprise users are asking for. “It’s a combination of things. It’s about interoperability with IP phone systems,” he said. “We have OEM relationships with Alcatel, Avaya and Nortel, where we support their proprietary systems,” Guderian said.

He said that it’s also important that customers see that this isn’t the same as a consumer Wi-Fi wireless phone. “It’s enterprise-grade in terms of security and quality of service,” he said. “It’s good for enterprise users who will be roaming and it includes enterprise-grade security for users frequently handing off from access point to access point,” he said.

Guderian said that the new NetLink phones will support a wide variety of proprietary technologies, but they are also standards-based. “We can support SIP as well,” he said, adding that the product will also support older signaling technologies. “The idea is that what we make a handset that supports all of the desk set features. What we’re delivering is a wireless handheld model that acts like a business desk set,” Guderian said.

“This will offer the enterprise more capacity,” said analyst Craig Mathias, principal at the Farpoint Group. “They’ll have more calls on the air for a given channel. That means 70 or 80 calls per channel versus 15 calls for 11b,” Mathias said.

“This is a significant enhancement over their previous handsets,” Mathias said. “The next step is integration into cell phone handsets.”

Click here for eWEEK Labs’ suggested questions to ask when considering voice-over-Wi-Fi phones.

Mathias said that SpectraLink will face a great deal of competition for the voice over Wi-Fi space in the immediate future. “You’ll see a lot of those at CES,” he said.

Mathias said that the next step for phones like this will be cell phone integration as well as 802.11n integration. He noted that the interim standard for 11n is due in the second quarter of 2007, and that he expects to see of lot of voice products appear shortly thereafter.

Guderian said that a more important issue now is that the new SpectraLink handsets are designed for the enterprise environment. “As enterprise handsets, these are designed with a lot of durability, for a workplace where you might not have carpeted floors. They are protected against dust and water spray,” he said.

The phones have been tested with a range of enterprise Wi-Fi systems including those from Cisco Systems, Trapeze Networks, Symbol Technologies and Aruba Networks, according to Guderian. He said that the 8020 will sell for $595 and the 8030 for $675 when the phones ship in mid-February.

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