3Com integrates Wi-Fi standards

3Com Corp. announced Monday a group of new wireless products that are integrated with all three Wi-Fi standards that the company plans to release later this month – integrated functionality that one analyst said isn’t needed in today’s businesses.

Sarah Kim, an analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston, said that companies with “many workers using their wireless network heavily at the same time would be great candidates for this kind of integrated technology.” But because this scenario would only occur in very sophisticated wireless enterprises – of which there are not many of at this point – she said the company might have problems selling the integrated units.

The products, which 3Com refers to as “tri-bond” range from the company’s wireless LAN (WLAN) access point 8750, the 11a/b/g wireless PC card with XJACK antenna and OfficeConnect wireless 11a/b/g PC card. All come able to support the 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g standards.

The 802.11b standard – the first wireless standard to be introduced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Inc. in 1997 – transmits in the 2.4GHz band as does 802.11g. The 802.11a standard transmits in the higher 5GHz frequency.

These differences in range are a key reason as to why different verticals including health care, government and education would benefit from having the integrated products, according to Brent Nixon, product line manager for wireless systems products at 3Com. He added that on top of these industries, mobile professionals on the whole would benefit from the technology.

“On the client side, we have created the tri-bond card to attack the notebook user because a mobile traveller will run into a lot of different wireless environments,” Nixon said.

“They might have 802.11g in their office, they’ll go to hotspots in airports and they’ll have 802.11b, and if they happen to get into certain environments where 802.11a is present, you want to have a client device that supports all three [standards] so that the IT managers are only setting up the computer once and will be able to talk to multiple networks.”

The 802.11a standard, which was the second to be introduced by the IEEE, is not backward compatible with 802.11b unlike the most recent 802.11g standard, which is compatible with both 802.11b and 802.11a.

Kim said that although she doesn’t see the need for a/b/g integrated devices today, voice applications or other bandwidth-heavy applications will help to drive the need for integrated a/b/g devices at some point in the future.

She added that home users may want to take advantage of the flexibility of the tri-bond technology, but the high cost of the products will keep those users away for now as well.

On top of the tri-bond products 3Com is releasing this month, it is also planning a December release for its OfficeConnect Wireless 11a/b/g Access Point for $270 and expects to start shipping its $315 OfficeConnect Wireless 11a/b/g Cable/DSL Gateway in January.

In related news, NetGear Inc. released its WG302 ProSafe 802.11g Wireless Access Point on Monday, which was designed for small- to medium-sized businesses and hotspot deployments. The ProSafe supports both the 802.11b and 802.11g client devices.

Additional information about 3Com Canada can be found online at www.3com.ca.