A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, March 19, 2004

Wireless offices & VoIP

I had a lunch meeting recently with Pete Standring of PTS Consulting recently. PTS have been involved in helping companies with the IT associated with office reloactions, voice and data network tenders and other IT infrastructure projects for around 20 years. Pete has been involved in a laot of tenders recently around providing new voice systems and a couple of interesting things came up.

Firstly, if you want a new voice system today you can have a voice over IP system or a VoIP system. If you want a traditional voice switch you should try eBay. Does this matter? I don't think so. If you spec. it right you'll get what you need. If you have some wooly idea about what voice and data convergence can do for you, then you'll most likely trip up, but this would have been the case before you had the option of a VoIP system anyway.

Secondly, the wireless office (as in no cables for PCs or 'phones) is not upon us yet, nor is it likely to be for the next five to ten years. The problem is that current wireless standards do not allow for the density needed in a large office environment. Overlapping cells are the problem. This can be addressed to some extent by turning down the power on the transmitters, but these then have to be pointed directly at the devices that they are providing coverage to, which negates the benefits of being wireless in the first place.

You're a liability!

One other interesting thing which we discussed was what will limit the spread of homeworking. Interestingly, it seems that some organisations have stepped back from rolling out homeworking because of the issue of employer liability. Ensuring that employees are in a safe working environment whilst at home has proved tricky. Instead the use of small local hot-desking centres is being trialled.
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