After two years of promises from the wireless industry, Broadbeam appears to be the first player to deliver seamless switching between wide area and wireless local area (Wi-Fi) networks.
Dubbed IntelliSwitching, it is the major new component of Broadbeam's Mobil Solutions System (MMS) Smart IP 3.0 middleware platform which already handles wireless optimization, security and authentication, and now seamless switching.
IntelliSwitching also allows users to predefine which networks to connect to and in which order. "We can automatically detect the available networks, seize that network according to a user-defined order, and authenticate the user," said Janet Boudris, chairman and CEO of Broadbeam.
If a call is dropped the software automatically re-authenticates the user and, using what is called check point restart, picks up the data flow from the point at which it was dropped.
It is currently being tested by CSX Transportation Inc., one of the largest rail network operators in the world, and the London Ambulance Service in Great Britain. London Ambulance switches between five different networks according to their prioritization, using Wi-Fi in their depot to download maps to get to a patient and wide area when out of range to transmit vital patient data back to the hospital.
Quentin Armitage, deputy director of technology at London Ambulance, said he can not identify a specific case where IntelliSwitching has saved a life but that the time it takes to get critical data has been greatly reduced.
"It used to take approximately one minute to pass the call details to an ambulance crew by voice and then the crews may have needed to look where the destination was in their map books. Now it takes typically two seconds for all the call details to be sent to the ambulance, and the PC in the vehicle tells the navigation equipment where the destination is," said Armitage.
MSS Smart IP 3.0 supports all of the current versions of IEEE 802.11a, b, and g plus GPRS, GSM, 1xRTT, and newer networks such as EVDO (Evolution Data Only) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution).
Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group, said the ability to switch between networks gives the enterprise more flexibility in planning its wireless strategy. "At the least, on a single handset, a company can decide when and how to deploy wireless based on a cost decision or on a services decision," said Mathias.
However, Patrick Hurley, director of research at TeleChoice, said it will take some good marketing to convince the enterprise that workers should be on so many different networks. "Eventually the carriers will deploy this and they have to convince their customers that they don't have to worry about tech support," said Hurley.
Besides licensing Smart IP 3.0, Broadbeam is offering to host a server-side solution for companies that do not want to invest resources in an on-premises solution. Client devices will still need to be configured.
Broadbeam is offering a 50 percent discount off the suggested list price to companies that purchase Smart IP 3.0 before June 30. The product is shipping now.