Proxim's Wi-Fi switch arrives - in June

By Peter Judge, Techworld.com |  Mobile & Wireless

Wireless vendor Proxim Corp. has finally entered the wireless switch market. A new generation of its Orinoco access points will be sold on their voice integration abilities, backed by a switch that manages wireless access points.

However, the switch won't be available till June, and -- because Proxim wants to include a hand-off to GSM networks -- it will need extra equipment from Proxim's partners Motorola Inc. and Avaya Inc. to do all the company promises.

"Wireless LANs have been justifying themselves for the last couple of years," said Anthony Fulgoni, U.K. & Ireland regional sales manager for Proxim. "We are trying to push things on a bit by adding another layer to it."

When the whole package is complete, the new AP-4000 access points will communicate to a switch that Proxim will launch in June. This will handle subnet roaming, rogue detection and other security functions. The voice integration will be provided by links to Avaya IP PBXs, a forthcoming Motorola product called Mobility Manager and proposed dual-band Motorola handsets that will roam from GSM to Wi-Fi networks.

"It's a jigsaw puzzle at the moment," said Fulgoni. "When these three pieces come together we have true IP telephony, roaming between Wi-Fi and GSM with one handset. It includes load balancing and roaming across subnets, going from building to building in a campus."

This sounds like a package for mobile operators to sell to IT departments, allowing the telco to keep its involvement in wireless calls within the office. The alternative approach, where the IT manager uses voice convergence to cut the mobile operator out, has been suggested by Nortel and others.

However, Proxim's actual marketing plans for the switches are still emerging. "Are we selling to users or providers? It could go either way," said Fulgoni. "There is no one model that will fit everybody. This approach will open doors but it could cause friction."

In the meantime, he expects IT managers to snap up the AP-4000 (which costs $900 in the U.S.) on its merits and as a way to be "voice-ready". It is, he says, the first access point to have all three flavors (802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g) on a single-board system. It uses two radios, using Atheros chipsets, not TI's proposed single radio solution. As a result, it can give users a high aggregate data rate, or let them use the 802.11a channel to create a wireless mesh if it is hard to connect the APs by Ethernet.

The access points also include SNMPv3 (which encrypts management data to prevent the use of SNMP to break Wi-Fi security, Secure-HTTP, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Wi-Fi Protected Access. The AES encryption standard will be available as a software upgrade in summer when it is finalized, bringing the AP up to the full 802.11i security spec. With 32MB of RAM, it should be able to handle other software upgrades, said Fulgoni.

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