Nortel Puts WLAN Security in Switch

Nortel Networks Ltd. last week introduced an upgraded line of wireless LAN products that includes a new security switch, plus access-point hardware, a laptop PC adapter and wireless voice-over-IP client software for Pocket PC handhelds.

Brampton, Ontario-based Nortel had not refreshed its WLAN hardware for two years. The rollout marks an aggressive re-entry into the wireless market by the company, said Anthony Bartolo, Nortel's director of WLAN product marketing. He added that the WLAN Security Switch 2250 sits at the heart of Nortel's plan to support corporate Wi-Fi systems.

Traditional access points provide WLAN security through firmware that's incorporated into ceiling-mounted Wi-Fi hardware. But like several other vendors, including Symbol Technologies Inc. in Holtsville, N.Y., Nortel opted to build its security technology into a separate switch.

Bartolo said Nortel did so to provide added features like built-in support for the Secure Sockets Layer encryption protocol. The 2250 also supports the IPsec protocol and includes a privilege-based access feature that lets network administrators limit the applications WLAN users can tap into.

Nortel isn't supporting the new Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security specifications in the first version of the switch, which is due in late June. But Nortel spokesman Pat Cooper said the company can easily upgrade the switch with WPA-compliant software in time to meet a scheduled August deadline, when support for the specifications will become a requirement to get products certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance trade group.

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