SpectraLink upgrades Wi-Fi phones

SpectraLink Corp. announced two next-generation Wi-Fi telephones Wednesday that support all three Wi-Fi radio standards and double the battery life over prior versions, offering as much as eight hours of talk time.

The improvements in the new NetLink 8000 series are the first since mid-2003. SpectraLink has been in the voice-over-Wi-Fi business since 1999, making the new releases its fourth generation, said Ben Guderian, vice president of marketing for SpectraLink in Boulder, Colo.

The SpectraLink NetLink 8020 Wireless Telephone is priced at US$595, while the push-to-talk version, the 8030, sells for $675. Both will ship this quarter, Guderian said.

John Tuman, director of network services for WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., said the new models interest him as possible replacements for previous versions of the phones with lower battery life. WakeMed has about 600 SpectraLink phones, which were resold by Nortel Networks as the Nortel 2211; all provide four hours of talk time. Many of the nurses and other health care workers carry a second battery, which can push the use of the phone to eight hours, but that creates problems if they work a full 12-hour shift, Tuman said.

"We're looking for extended battery life," he said. The new model is also "much better-looking and slightly smaller." In addition, the new models are resistant to liquids, which will help greatly with infection prevention needs in hospital settings, he said.

The previous SpectraLink phones only used the 802.11b standard, but the new models rely on 802.11b as well as 802.11a and 802.11g, offering greater flexibility to IT managers to provide clear communications on different radio bands, as well as more users per band, said Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass. He predicted that voice-over-Wi-Fi phones will become the norm in most enterprises in coming years, replacing desktop wired phones.