Open Source AP and Other New Products

By Eric Griffith

June 19, 2003

An open-source, Linux-based, software access point tops the list of new products this week, along with announcements on a compact bridge/repeater and first 11g USB adapter from Buffalo Technology and Sony's foray into the world of 11g.

A ROSE by Any other Name

Finnish wireless network provider Radionetannounced earlier this week that it would make the customized Linux-based Radionet Open Source Environment (ROSE) available as an open source software tool to create 802.11 access points, available free under GNU General Public License. By running this software on a Linux-box equipped with an 802.11 card, the computer is turned into an access point. This is the same technology the company has used in building some city-wide hotzones throughout Finland.

In addition, Radionet also launched an online developer communityto support it. ROSE is meant for use by equipment manufacturers and system integrators in hopes of reducing their time to market for new access point products, but private users are also welcome.

Buffalo's Firsts

Being the first company to ship pre-standard 802.11g products last year, Buffalo Technology is still shooting to be first in some new areas of 802.11g products. As of this week, they're the first to announce an 802.11g-based USB adapter for desktop systems.

The AirStation 54Mbps Wireless USB Adapter (WLI-USB-G54) will use Hi-Speed USB 2.0 to get the full throughput available to the 54Mbps 802.11g. USB 2.0 can do 480Mbps, more than enough for 11g's real-world speeds of around 22Mbps -- the plodding 12Mbps of USB 1.0 would have been a bottleneck to 11g speeds.

The unit will support WPA, WEP, 802.1X, and have AES support built in (it uses the Broadcom 54g chips, which incorporate hardware based AES encryption). It can also use external antennas to boost range, though Buffalo says it comes rated to a distance up to 410 feet. The $179 (MSRP) product wont' ship until August.

Coming in July, however, is Buffalo's AirStation 54Mbps Compact Bridge Base Station-g (WLA2-G54), a $149 wireless bridge/repeater. It uses Wireless Distribution System (WDS) to provide point-to-point or point-to-multi-point (up to six locations) connections, and has a single Ethernet jack to tie the unit back to the wired network. This same functionality is available in Buffalo's 11g WLA-G54 router, but that unit is $50 more.

Sony Goes 11g

While still a few weeks away, Sony will have a series of SOHO 802.11g products available this July. The line will include an access point (PCWA-AR300), a PC Card with slim antenna to minimize the profile (PCWA-C300S), and an Ethernet-to-wireless adapter (PCWA-DE30), which can be setup via a direct connection to the access point without attaching to a PC first. Pricing and other details aren't available yet.

3Com's SOHO 11g Line

We touched upon 3Com's announcement yesterday, but here's some details on the Intersil PRISM GT-based OfficeConnect products for homes and small offices:

The OfficeConnect access point will list for $135, cheap as can be to compete with the big players (Linksys, D-Link, Netgear) according to Alan Miano, product manager in wireless group at 3Com. It will featurea a "zero configuration" setup, meaning it should just plug in and work. As a DHCP client it should grab an IP address and be ready to roll. At startup, it seeks out the best channel to use and adjusts itself to that channel.

The gateway/router is the same form factor as the access point, with all the usual and some not-so-usual built in: SPI firewall, NAT, VPN pass-thru, hacker pattern detection, and URL filtering, etc. It will sell for $125 list -- lower than the access point. 3com says that's what the market wants, so that's what the market gets.

The CardBus card will sell for $79 MSRP and will be on sale by the end of the month. The access point and router will be available later in July.

Shared across the entire family of products is the "notion of wireless profiles - you can create a profile for an access point with security settings, and then decide to bring that profile to other access points and client cards, too," says Miano. A profile file can be emailed or used on disks and sent to PCs for setting up the profile across the network, without manually setting everything each time.

While not set yet, 3com expects to make some aggressive pricing moves on it's 802.11b products, as they figure 11b-sales will drop off significantly. But 3com doesn't have a lot of back-stock anyway, since they sell mainly through VARs and partners, not in retail.

SMC's 11g Products Fully Compliant

According to a release issued today, SMC's line of 802.11g products are fully compliant with the final specification. The line includes a broadband router, CardBus and PCI adapters, a cable modem, and a dual-band 802.11a/g/b CardBus card. All use chips from Intersil and support the PRISM Nitro speed boost.



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