Nortel 'Reveals' WLAN Offerings

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
3/31/2003



Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) has made its expected mark on the 802.11 arena with the launch of a number of products aimed at the enterprise and carrier market (see Nortel Enters WLAN Market).

Despite Unstrung putting something of a dampener on Nortel’s intended surprise announcement (see Nortel Preps 'Security Switch', published last week), the company’s director of wireless strategic marketing, Mark Morell, was eager to stress that today’s launch is the vendor’s latest attempt to further itself in this nascent market, following last year’s intention to allow "seamless" roaming among wireless LAN public access points and cellular networks (see Nortel Romances Roaming ). “This is the second step of our strategy,” explains Morell. “We are focusing on providing seamless, secure wireless voice and data connectivity.”

Nortel’s ability to fulfil this ambition depends on the success of its four core products released today: a wireless LAN Security Switch 2250, Access Point 2220, Mobile Voice Client i2050, and its Mobile Adaptor 2201 model.

The wireless LAN security switch, described by Nortel’s Anthony Bartolo, director of product marketing for wireless LAN solutions, as the company’s jewel in its 802.11 crown, is designed to operate with different vendors’ access points. According to Bartolo, the switch is expected to start shipping on June 30th, at a cost of between $6,000 and $7,000 U.S.

Its wireless LAN Access Point 2220 product, available from May 30th at a cost of $899, is a dual-mode device capable of supporting both 802.11a (54-Mbit/s over 5GHz) and b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) frequencies. Nortel’s Mobile Voice Client i2050, supporting wireless IP telephony calls for pocket PCs, and the Mobile Adaptor 2201, a Cardbus adaptor for laptops, are also expected to be available by the end of the second quarter this year.

It is a bold move for a company that until now has not been exactly synonymous with the wireless LAN market. “They are not really a big name in wireless LAN solutions, [and are] competing against some useful looking specialist companies,” notes Michael Wall, wireless research analyst at Frost & Sullivan. Competition will come from wireless LAN switch products being introduced by Aruba Networks Inc., Airespace Inc., and Trapeze Networks Inc., while the likes of Bluesocket Inc., ReefEdge Inc., and Vernier Networks Inc. are touting WLAN security boxes.

Nortel’s Bartolo was keen to downplay these concerns. “Our relationships with carriers and enterprise customers means we are well placed to serve the wireless LAN market and provide a whole portfolio of solutions, rather than focusing on just one specific product,” he tells Unstrung.

As noted last week, some analysts are reluctant to consider Nortel’s 2250 product a true switch. Frost & Sullivan’s man, however, believes this argument is missing the point. “Whether or not the product is strictly a switch or something else is irrelevant,” Wall insists. “As adoption of wireless LAN grows in the enterprise and public access spaces, the networks are getting bigger and more complex, and adopters are increasingly aware of the need for secure platforms to manage them.”

According to Wall, Nortel will at least benefit from a distinguished brand and the strength of its distribution channel. “Nortel is making a smart move,” he concludes. “Companies like Nortel have to make the most of the resources they acquired during their dotcom spending sprees, particularly given the current climate.” (See Nortel Buys: Reaping the Whirlwind?.)

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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