Cisco Dives into the Draft 802.11n Pool

By Lisa Phifer

September 06, 2007

Ruggedized enterprise-class access point is first of several .11n products due from Cisco.

Yesterday, the trickle of draft 802.11n products completing Wi-Fi certification gained momentum with Cisco’s Next Generation 802.11n Wireless announcement. The splashy new Aironet 1250 Series AP, available with 2.4 and 5 GHz radio modules that comply with 802.11n draft 2.0, will ship this October.

Expanding the Unified Wireless Network family
Cisco's next-generation offering is composed of the modular Aironet 1250 Series AP, a Catalyst 6500-based WLAN controller system (available by year end), and associated Unified Wireless Network Release 4.2 software.


Cisco Aironet 1250
the Cisco Aironet 1250 AP

"Next-generation wireless offers the promise of higher bandwidth and more reliable mobility, and Cisco has recognized the importance of delivering not only industry-leading wireless technology but also the integrated wired and wireless solution to make it all possible," said Brett Galloway, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Wireless Network Business Unit. With this new product bundle, "Cisco has delivered a truly deployable wired and wireless 802.11n solution for customers."

The Aironet 1250 (list price $1,299) is a ruggedized indoor AP for use in a variety of settings, from carpeted offices to factories. Dual radios with 2x3 MIMO enable simultaneous operation in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, communicating with clients that implement the new draft 802.11n protocol or older 802.11a/b/g protocols.

Supporting 802.11n PHY data rates up to 300 Mbps (1 or 9 non-overlapping 40 MHz channels) or 144.4 Mbps (3 or 21 non-overlapping 20 MHz channels), the 1250 relays LAN traffic through a single PoE-capable Gigabit Ethernet port. Field-upgradeable radio modules permit replacement in the future to take advantage of new standards—for example, should the 802.11n standard change significantly before final ratification.

All together now
The 1250 can be deployed as a standalone autonomous AP, or as a controller-based unified AP, operating under the direction of a Cisco WLAN controller and the Cisco Wireless Control System (WSC).

Cisco plans to make further next-generation wireless products available later this year, including a new Wireless Service Module (WiSM) blade for the Catalyst 6500 (upgraded from 40 to 48 Gbps) and new versions of Cisco’s Unified Wireless Network Software and Secure Services Client. The new Catalyst blade will also be capable of powering both 802.11n radios via single-port PoE, instead of requiring a separate PoE injector.

According to Duke University CIO Tracy Futhey, Duke has been evaluating 8 Aironet 1250 Series APs in a 50-student campus dorm for the past three weeks. "Universities provide a unique role as a microcosm for the broader society: a realistic yet controlled testing ground," said Futhey.

"We have people who use the Duke wireless network for diverse applications such as video, streaming media, and other data-intensive technologies. Our early experience with Cisco's 802.11n technology has been that it can reliably deliver the wireless bandwidth our highly mobile population requires."

Join the party
With this announcement, Cisco joins the fast-growing pool of vendors that have completed 802.11n draft 2.0 certification. That Wi-Fi Alliance test program has blessed 85 products to date, including those from Apple, ASUS, Atheros, Broadcom, Buffalo, Cisco/Linksys, D-Link, HP, Fujitsu, Intel, Lenovo, SMC, Sony, and Toshiba.

Today, over two dozen draft 802.11n SOHO wireless routers have been certified, while four dozen internal/external draft 802.11n Wi-Fi adapters provide client connectivity. Although several other vendors have announced draft 802.11n-based APs, the Aironet 1250 is currently the only enterprise-class AP to complete formal 802.11n draft 2.0 certification. (But expect that to change very soon.)

The Aironet 1250 AP not only passed Wi-Fi Alliance certification tests; it completed interoperability testing at Intel to promote more reliable performance and greater compatibility between client devices and Cisco wireless networks.

According to Randy Nickel, director of wireless marketing for the Intel mobile platforms group, "Cisco and Intel have worked together closely to ensure that adoption of 802.11n technologies is as seamless as possible for enterprise customers." For enterprises still fighting with cranky Centrino laptops, this will certainly be welcome news.



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