Cisco Goes 802.11n

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has added its first enterprise 802.11n wireless LAN access point as part of a number of WiFi updates for corporate customers.

The faster draft 802.11n specification used by Cisco and others provides maximum data transfer rates of over 500 Mbit/s and increased range over earlier standards. 802.11n achieves its rate hikes using multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology, which dramatically increases the data transfer rates and steady throughput of the WiFi network.

Cisco is introducing the Aironet 1250 Series box as "the industry’s first Wi-Fi-certified 802.11n draft 2.0 access point." The networking giant says the 1250 is the only commercially available product to have participated in the recent Wi-Fi Alliance 802.11n testing.

The 1250 deploys a modular design that allows customers to swap between 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n radios. Ben Gibson, director of mobility solutions marketing at Cisco, says the design makes it more versatile for users and also ensures that radios can be replaced if the 802.11n specification is changed before ratification, which Gibson says is quite unlikely but not impossible.

In support of 802.11n, Cisco is also announcing extended controller capacity on its Catalyst 6500 WiSM [wireless management module] offering to 48 Gbit/s, which Gibson claims is the "highest in the industry."

"We have a 'scale as you grow' approach to this, where our customers can add WiSM modules, each with 8 Gbit/s of capacity, as needed, as 802.11n users grow," Gibson adds.

The firm has also worked on powering 802.11n APs over Ethernet by using an automatic power distribution system that can find extra juice for the more power-hungry 1250. The "auto-negotiating, single-port power" upgrade will be available for Catalyst switches late in 2007 and Cisco will roll out the improvement for more switches over the next twelve months.

Cisco's entry into the emerging enterprise 802.11n market follows in the footsteps of MIMO and draft-based AP work from WiFi startups. Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN), Bluesocket Inc. , and Trapeze Networks Inc. are already working on 802.11n.

David Cohen, director of product marketing for Trapeze, says the company has a beta 802.11n AP in the wings. He predicts that -- like the consumer market -- 802.11n will start to become a significant factor in enterprise WiFi AP sales. Cohen reckons that draft 802.11n products could make up 15 percent of AP sales by the end of the year.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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