Wireless LANs heat up desert conference

LAS VEGAS -- The present and future of enterprise wireless networking stirred up interest at the NetWorld+Interop conference here, with vendors presenting systems for existing and planned wireless LAN standards.

With an eye toward smoothing the enterprise migration path to forthcoming higher-speed wireless LAN standards, Enterasys Networks Inc. introduced a wireless access system with an upgradable architecture capable of supporting multiple wireless LAN technologies. The RoamAbout R2 supports the current 802.11b wireless technology and features modular slots designed to accommodate cards for high-rate standards, such as 802.11a, HyperLAN2 and Bluetooth. The system will also include routing and switching functionality that will allow it to scale to hundreds of connections, according to Enterasys officials.

Whereas the current IEEE 802.11b wireless standard supports data rates of 11M bit/sec., the emerging 802.11a standard can carry wireless data as fast as 54M bit/sec. The higher-speed 802.11a promises to enable mobile access to streaming video and other types of multimedia content.

Enterasys officials said the company plans to release 54M bit/sec. products by the end of the year.

"802.11b is out there now, but [802.11a] is on the horizon. We are offering our customers a migration path for higher-bandwidth [wireless LAN] networks," said Peter Beardmore, general manager of wireless products at Enterasys in Rochester, N.H.

Another company addressing 54M bit/sec. wireless LANs, Proxim Inc., announced that it's incorporating 802.11a support in its Harmony wireless LAN system. The Harmony system will allow network managers to deploy single-card 802.11a access points without disruption of service in existing 802.11b networks, said officials at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Proxim.

Intel Corp., which recently acquired wireless system vendor Xircom Inc., unveiled its Xircom SpringPort Wireless Ethernet module, a wireless LAN device for Mountain View, Calif.-based Handspring Inc.'s Visor handheld computers. The SpringPort 802.11b-compliant module plugs into Visor devices to create connectivity with wireless networks when the device is within 300 feet of a wireless LAN access point. The SpringPort will be available later this month, priced at $299.

Also at the show, Symbol Technologies Inc. rolled out a Compact Flash wireless LAN adapter designed to connect handheld devices to 802.11b wireless LANs. The Spectrum24 Compact Flash card, which runs on Microsoft's Windows CE and Pocket PC operating system, and Palm Inc.'s OS, also includes security features for uninterrupted roaming, according to officials at Symbol, in Holtsville, N.Y.

Symbol also introduced a voice over Internet Protocol wireless phone that supports 802.11b and H.323 standard-based telephony systems. The Spectrum24 NetVision Phone lets enterprises add wireless voice connections to their in-building wireless LANs, company representatives said.

Meanwhile, Kirkland, Wash.-based wireless vendor Wavelink Corp. is showcasing its Mobile Manager wireless LAN management product. Mobile Manager lets enterprises deploy and manage wireless networks from multiple manufacturers and centrally monitor remote wireless LAN locations, company representatives said.

In coming weeks, Wavelink also plans to announce a partnership with Islandia, N.Y.-based Computer Associates International Inc. in which Wavelink's device management software will be integrated into CA's Unicenter network management system, according to Wavelink officials.

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