3Com Broadens WLAN Appeal To Businesses

By Jim Wagner

January 25, 2002

The equipment manufacturer started in the middle and is making its way to small- and large-enterprises with the introduction of two new 801.11b hubs and promises 802.11a products by June.

3Com (NYSE:COMS) is broadening its appeal to businesses interested in 802.11b, or wireless local area networks (WLANs), at the workplace with the introduction Thursday of two new wireless hubs.

Introduced at 3Com North America Focus Partner Conference in Las Vegas, the 11Mbps WLAN Access Point 2000 and Access Point 8000 promise to extend the hubs reach in the marketplace outside its flagship Access Point 6000.

Patrick Guay, 3Com LAN infrastructure division vice president and general manager, said winning converts in the enterprise community is priority one for the company.

"3Com's unique approach of engineering innovative, rich networking features, while delivering easy-of-use and affordable solutions, stands out exceptionally well, especially when our customers are required to do more with fewer resources. Given today's networking and business demands, great opportunities exist for our channel partners in the enterprise market."

The three hubs are the corner stone in 3Com's approach to bring its version of wireless networking to the business world. Each hub is designed using the same principle, but accommodate a different class of corporation.

  • AP 2000 For businesses with around 10-40 simultaneous users, priced at $229.
  • AP 6000 Available since early last year, the hub supports up to 65 simultaneous users, priced at $497.
  • AP 8000 Supports up to 1,000 user names and passwords, information unavailable to the maximum number of concurrent users. Asking price, $899.
The AP 6000 and 8000 support added security features not found in the AP 2000. For example, the two higher-end hubs (when using 3Com WLAN cards) support dynamic security links -- a remote authentication dial-in user service (RADIUS) look-alike allowing system administrators to make sure who is and isn't given access to the wireless intranet.

3Com reiterated their promise to deliver 802.11a products by mid-2002. The wireless standard is almost exactly the same as 802.11b, but delivers speeds of 54 MBps through the aether compared to its slower kin with speeds of 11 Mbps.

While companies have been hyping up the standard, its uncertain how the WLAN market will react to the speedier product line, when equipment makers begin selling these products. It's taken a couple years for 802.11b, which edged out competing standard Bluetooth for wireless networking dominance, to gain acceptance in the U.S.

While the standard, which uses the 5 GHz spectrum to provide unquestionably faster speeds, the 802.11a line of gear is not likely to be reasonably priced for anyone but big business. Some analysts predict the 802.11a gear will cost twice as much as what you would expect to pay for a related 802.11b product.

In related news:

3Com also made inroads with wide area network (WAN) companies, introducing Thursday software version 2 for their SuperStack 3 Webcache line. Designed for far-flung businesses and school systems, the SuperStack 3 stores popular Web pages on the server located at the company/school, driving the use of bandwidth considerably.

Version 2, 3Com officials promise, will "significantly" speed up Web content delivery while reducing Web traffic costs by 50 percent.



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