Aruba Announces Low-Priced 802.11n AP

By Naomi Graychase

September 23, 2009

Aruba Networks's new AP-105 may be just the ticket for enterprises and even small businesses that have been waiting for 802.11n ratification and equipment price drops.

Aruba Networks today introduced a new low-cost 802.11n AP (access point), the AP-105 ($695).

According to Mike Tennefoss, strategic head of marketing for Aruba, the release of this affordable, enterprise-grade access point breaks down the last barrier to entry for enterprises considering wireless deployments.

“There have been two major roadblocks to widespread enterprise adoption of 11n,” Tennefoss told Wi-Fi Planet. One of them has just been removed—ratification. The last hurdle has been the 802.11n price premium. Many enterprises have been waiting to adopt 802.11n until it reached the price of an a/b/g AP. They didn’t want to pay a premium for n. Our new AP is intended to address that hurdle.”

Aruba sees the compact, dual-radio AP-105 802.11n, which offers enterprise-grade security, high throughput, and streaming video support, as being priced competitively enough that even small businesses will jump on board the n train.

Technically, the AP-105 is an 802.11n-draft device, since the Wi-Fi Alliance will not be releasing its list of 802.11n Wi-Fi Certified devices until October. When that happens, though, Tennefoss says its only a matter of changing the logo on the packaging.

“We can’t use the new logo until they announce it, but once they do, we will move from ‘draft’ to ‘n.’ The ratified standard includes lots of new options and I’m sure over time we’ll investigate which to include and which not,” he says.


Tennefoss says that there were a lot of steps involved in engineering an access point that could deliver a worthwhile profit margin (60-70%) to Aruba at this price point.

“We’ve had our eyes on doing this since we got into the 11n business. One major issue is power generation inside the AP. Normally, you dissipate heat by having a larger surface area; you need more holes in the cover and so on. We had a certain size in mind for this product, but we decided to give it a metal base. So it’s not all plastic, the bottom is metal and that’s the heat sink. It dissipates heat so we can save on internal components to get rid of the heat,” says Tennefoss.

Chipsets, of course, also come into play.

“We went with some advanced designs in terms of the latest 11n chipsets, the latest processors. They integrated more parts into them that used to be discrete. By waiting longer to integrate, it allowed us to get rid of a lot of parts that would have been on the board, which would have taken more board space and generated more heat,” he says.

In short, says Tennefoss, the winning formula was the result of  “really careful mechanical design and electrical design and integration of separate components into integrated parts.”

Aruba also today announced that it has lowered the price of its higher-end access points, the 3x3 MIMO AP-124 and AP-125 802.11n APs, both now $995.


According the Yankee Group, 45% of companies surveyed expect at least half of their workforce to be WLAN-enabled by 2012. Aruba believes in the veracity of that prediction.

“97% of all enterprises will have wireless LANs deployed by 2012,” says Tennefoss, “and few have plans to deploy gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. They are looking to n to supply that; they’re shunning wired. To make all that happen, 802.11n needs to be economical enough for them to make that trade-off and move from wired to wireless.”

One for the money AP105_white_sm.jpg

The unobtrusive AP-105, which looks a bit like a smoke detector, measures 5.2” x 5.3” x 1.8,” weighs just under 11 ounces, and is intended for indoor deployments.

Tennefoss is quick to point out that while the AP-105 is inexpensive, it’s not “cheap.”

“It’s a dual-radio design, therefore it’s not a cheap access point, but a value-priced access point. It’s intended to incorporate all the enterprise class security,” he says.

The AP-105 sports integrated antennas and can be mounted on either a wall or the ceiling, although for best performance, the ceiling is ideal. It offers a single 802.3af (PoE) port, software reconfiguration, and is compatible with all Aruba controllers. It also features Aruba’s Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which securely stores network credentials and cipher keys to protect the network even if the AP itself is absconded with or compromised.

“As wireless LANs become more pervasive in the enterprise and other verticals, APs will be located in areas without physical security. The TPM keeps all credentials safe, even if the AP is stolen,” says Tennefoss.

Competing for the expanding enterprise WLAN business are a squadron of vendors, ranging from new kid on the block, Meraki, with its new enterprise cloud controller, to long-time leaders Cisco, Meru, and Motorola, to the beamforming Ruckus, and respected veterans HP, Aerohive, and Trapeze.

Tennefoss says Aruba sees Cisco as its primary competitor and that it doesn't recognize Meraki as being in competition with its enterprise-class products. Among the others, Tennefoss says the AP-105 edges out Trapeze for the lowest dual-radio 802.11n AP list price.

Referring to the AP-105 at the low end and the AP-124 and AP-125 at the high end, Tennefoss says, “We’ve bookended the market with $695 and $995 U.S. list prices. Even at $995, our APs are substantially lower priced than those with much lower performance.”

It would seem Aruba has thrown down the gauntlet—which can only mean good things for enterprises looking to finally make the leap to the all wireless office.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor for Wi-Fi She interviewed Mike Tennefoss on September 22, 2009.

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