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Symbol's Gotta Lotta Switch

Wireless LAN switch pioneer Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) has announced a new box that can handle larger 802.11 networks than its existing offerings (see Symbol Unveils New Switch).

The new WS 5100 can support up to 48 access points. The firm's original WS 5000 switch could handle up to 30 access points (APs). (See Symbol's Cisco Killer?.)

Symbol says that the new box also supports a bunch of security and radio standards, such as 802.11i, both versions of the wireless protected access (WPA)specification, and 802.11h, which is a variant of 802.11a (54 Mbit/s over 5 GHz) tweaked for the European market.

"A lot of these switch platforms are very U.S.-centric," notes Graham Melville, Symbol's director of product marketing.

Since Symbol first announced its platform, then called "Mobius," in September of 2002, many more companies have jumped on the bandwagon, introducing architectures that can centrally secure and manage a fleet of "thin" APs via a switch. And many of those support far more APs than the original Symbol box.

So why has Symbol waited so long to introduce a bigger box, Unstrung wonders. "We've tried to build for what the market wants, not just go for the big numbers," says Melville.

So far this strategy has paid off handsomely. Symbol is the number one provider of wireless LAN switches and second only to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) in the overall enterprise WiFi market. What will be interesting to see is if Cisco's acqusition of leading switch startup Airespace Inc. will change the game for Symbol at all (see Cisco Buys Airespace). The $450 million buyout will likely mean that Symbol faces more competition for its switch crown from the top of the market, rather the pesky ankle biting it has so far seen from startups nipping at its heels.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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