ValuePoint Networks Wireless Hotspot Gateway
May 29, 2003
ValuePoint makes a well-built gateway for use in public wireless LANs that loses points for requiring a separate authentication server even in small venues, but makes up for that just about everywhere else.
Price: $399.00 MSRP
ValuePoint Networks' HG-2000 is a wireless hotspot gateway that's designed for companies deploying wireless LANs for public use. The HG-2000 hardware is equipped with an 802.11b radio interface that meets Wi-Fi-compliancy requirements, one 10/100BaseT WAN port, and four 10/100BaseT LAN ports. The gateway includes software that hosts the features that you'll need for deploying effective public wireless LANs. The relatively low price of the HG-2000 makes it within reach of most hotspot venues.
Products that cost less generally do not provide adequate functionality and performance necessary for more complex systems, such as public and enterprise wireless LANs. The HG-2000, though, is a shining example of a gateway with suitable features at an affordable price. This makes it a worthy product for deploying public wireless LAN access in situations where there are many smaller venues, such as coffee shops and fast food restaurants, which are part a larger system.
A gateway for public wireless LANs must go well beyond a common access point or router. The HG-2000 does this by offering a comprehensive set of features needed by system integrators when deploying wireless LANs for public use. In addition to typical access point functionality, the HG-2000 provides RADIUS-based authentication, auto-IP configuration, virtual LAN support, walled garden, HTTP page redirection, TCP/IP routing, NAT, DHCP, and a host of security features. This enables the HG-2000 to independently handle all functions required for supporting a specific hotspot location. You just need to add an Internet connection, and you're pretty much ready to support wireless users.One important feature, however, that the HG-2000 doesn't include is a built-in authentication server. You must interface the HG-2000 to an external RADIUS server, which may not be desirable for small hotspot owners who want to deploy the system themselves. The installation of a RADIUS server would likely be beyond the technical capability and budget of the small hotspot owner. This isn't really an issue with larger systems because it will make more sense to share authentication servers externally among multiple HG-2000's installed in different places.
The only other possible con to consider with this product is that ValuePoint is a relatively new company without much of a proven record with large deployments. Initial testing of the product, however, indicates that the HG-2000 is certainly worth consideration. Furthermore, the ValuePoint development team has extensive experience in the wireless network industry drawn from other companies, such as Cisco, Compaq, and others.
The installation of the HG-2000 is straightforward. I found that the setup screens were simple to follow and configurations were made easily. This is important, especially when needing to deploy several units in numerous locations that fold into a larger public venue.
On the other hand, the installation and setup of the RADIUS-based authentication server is more complex and requires some background and experience in applicable technologies. Of course the authentication server, however, will be part of a complete wireless network architecture design. If that portion of the system is designed well, then the configuration of the RADIUS interface within the HG-2000 will be rather easy.
All-in-all, the HG-2000 is a well-built gateway for use in public wireless LANs. Definitely consider including this product in applicable solutions, such as larger public wireless LANs.