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Symbol Preps 'RF Switch'

Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) -- one of the originators of the 802.11 switch concept -- wants to move beyond plain ol' WiFi with its next generation of enterprise RF products, which the company will officially unveil at the Interop show next month.

The new switch line will help enterprises roll out and manage many different corporate wireless devices and systems, from passive RFID readers to VOIP phones and fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) devices, the Holtsville, N.Y.-based company tells Unstrung. Symbol is also upgrading the way it can provide WiFi coverage by allowing "switch-assisted" 802.11 mesh networking that will let the company use its existing access points to create mesh networks. (See Symbol Goes Mesh.)

Symbol is branding the RF switches and associated software management suite under the Wi-NG name, which stands for "Wireless Next Generation" architecture, according to Chris McGugan, senior director of product management at Symbol's wireless infrastructure division.

"Enterprise customers need more radio flexibility and wireless density and that's what Wi-NG is about," says McGugan, which is why the vendor calls them "RF switches," not WiFi platforms.

In addition to 802.11 signals, the switches and associated spectrum management software will also work with passive RFID readers on the UHF band, and "see" devices such as Bluetooth tags in the immediate radio environment. The software will also allow users to configure and manage RFID readers via the switch.

The firm says it will increase RF switching capacity in the new lineup so the boxes can handle multi-floor, large-scale deployments by adding multiple Gigabit Ethernet connectors to the infrastructure boxes and allowing Layer 3 -- rather than Layer 2 -- network connections. This means that APs and wired RF readers will not need to be directly connected to the switch. Instead, the switch will "find" them on the network.

Layer 3 connectivity will also help to facilitate WiFi VOIP and fixed/mobile convergence, McGugan says. Symbol can already handle fast handoffs between access points running voice services and is now working with startup DiVitas Networks to allow the same fast jumps between the enterprise WiFi network and a GSM cellular network.

— Dan-NG Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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