Cisco reverses position on fast Wi-Fi

Cisco has reversed its earlier position on 802.11n fast Wi-Fi, following other vendors in announcing products to meet the standard - which it said in May was not ready for business use.

The Aironet 1250 access point can be used on its own, or as a thin access point connecting to Cisco's wireless switches - an approach that appears to duck the architectural issues which have split other Wi-Fi players. The AP, due next month, is capable of a theoretical rate of 300 Mbit/s (actual throughput probably around 100 Mbit/s) compared with todays 802.11g access points, and will cost $1299.

As well as the access point, Cisco has announced software upgrades to its switch to handle the AP, and partnered with Cisco to demonstrate the product in real-world set-ups, and show it works with Intel-based Wi-Fi clients.

"This technology is real and ready for deployment," said Cisco marketing vice president Marciej Kranz. Intel's director of wireless marketing Randy Nickel agreed: "The changeover to N has exceeded our expectations." Although the standard is more than a year away from final approval by the IEEE, the pair said that the Wi-Fi Alliance's branding for Draft 2.0 of the standard was enough for users to trust products.

Both Intel and Cisco took part in the Wi-Fi Alliance's test programme announced in May but stopped short of launching products then because it was too early for businesses to use 802.11n.

The 1250 will be field-upgradeable in case there are major changes to the standard before next year. It can also be used with power-over-Ethernet (PoE) - although currently this can only power one of the two radios that 802.11n needs for full flexibility, Cisco has pledged to give enough PoE for two radios by the end of 2007.

Although other vendors, including Trapeze, Colubris and Meru, have already backed 802.11n for business use, Cisco's backing is important and will open the floodgates of products from other vendors, according to Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group: "What Cisco is basically saying is, 'There's a new technology available, the risk is very low, we know that customers want to buy it, so we're in the game."

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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