3Com launches new Power Over Ethernet switch, phones

3Com Corp. announced a new Power Over Ethernet switch today as well as IP telephones and wireless LAN access devices that don't require a separate power line and depend instead on Power Over Ethernet.

Products using Power Over Ethernet have been appearing for about two years, but all the new 3Com products adhere to a draft standard, known as 802.3af, said Doug Hyde, product manager for Santa Clara, Calif.-based 3Com. The announcement was made at the CeBIT conference in Hanover, Germany.

The chief benefit of having Power Over Ethernet is reducing the need to use power outlets for IP telephones or WLAN access points, said Nick Lippis, an analyst at Lippis Consulting in Hingham, Mass. There is no need to run new power lines to new devices and fewer wires are draped over desktops, he added.

Lippis said the new 3Com products are unique on the market for adhering to the new Power Over Ethernet standard, although Cisco Systems Inc. and other big networking vendors offer prestandard Power Over Ethernet devices.

3Com announced a Power Over Ethernet switch, the SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 PWR, which ships in April for $2,495. Also, the company announced Power Over Ethernet NBX phones that ship in May; pricing wasn't disclosed but prices will be in line with current models that don't support Power Over Ethernet. Also, 3Com announced a converter module to allow existing NBX telephones (which require a separate power brick next to the phone) to operate with the new switch. It is available now for $30. The new switch works with 3Com's Network Jack for forwarding power at the wall for IP phones and other devices; it starts at $140 and is already shipping.

The new switch can be stacked and managed with 3Com's 24- and 48-port switches for easy integration, 3Com officials said. Those existing switches start at $1,595.

The new WLAN access devices can be placed on ceilings or other places where power isn't available, connecting only to an Ethernet line for power. Three were announced: the 8200, 8500 and 8700, starting at $749. The 8200 supports the 802.11b radio network; the 8500 supports 802.11a; and the 8700 supports both 802.11 a and 802.11b.

Ventura Unified School District in California has been beta-testing the new switch since early March to power some of its 1,200 NBX phones at 22 sites, said Ted Malos, director of technology for the district. He said that Ethernet power is "an absolute must-have" and that the switch has been easy to integrate with other 3Com gear.

All of the district's switches purchased in the future will be the new 3Com devices, which will power the phones but also will be used to power a new wireless network. "The switch gives us incentive to go to wireless," he said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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