New wireless adapter a Cisco, Xircom joint venture

Continuing its entry into the wireless local area network (WLAN) space, Cisco Systems Inc.’s new development partnership with Thousand Oaks, Calif.’s Xircom Inc. has resulted in the introduction of Xircom’s new CreditCard Wireless Ethernet Adapters.

The CreditCard adapter is compliant with the IEEE 802.11b WLAN standard (meaning it is interoperable with all other WLAN products certified by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance), but Cisco is obviously planning to market the product to go along with its line of Aironet Access Points.

Geared for the small- to medium-sized business, WLANs allow administrators to connect a company’s PCs on a wireless network, allowing notebook users to roam the office. Though the technology failed to catch on in the past few years because of its low throughput rates, this year’s new 11b standard with 11Mbps data rates has led to a greater interest in the technology. Networking companies such as 3Com and Lucent provide Cisco with its competition.

“I say the more the merrier,” Iain Grant, an analyst with The Yankee Group in Canada in Brockville, Ont., said of Xircom’s and Cisco’s decision to jointly develop LAN solutions.

Grant said resellers are having a tough time keeping WLAN products on the shelves, often leaving customers waiting 60 days to pick up new adapters. He hoped Xircom’s CreditCard adapter would boost the supply to meet the burgeoning demand.

“I think the entire planet is tired of the clutters of blue cables tying offices together,” Grant said.

According to a report from Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-tech market research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., the worldwide market for WLAN client adapters and access points is expected to increase to US$4.5 billion in 2004 from the US$1.2 billion expected this year.

However, Grant said companies are still moving slowly towards wireless networks.

“The way businesses tend to operate is they will buy a few access points to put their toes in the water and try it,” Grant said. “They will then issue to a few of their more roaming users a few of the access cards. When they see how well it works… they will start adopting it on a more wholesale basis.”

But Grant is not advising customers abandon wireline networks completely.

“The wired network is working perfectly well at 100baseT now. Wireless hasn’t caught up to that yet.”

Xircom’s CreditCard Wireless Ethernet Adapters come with both standard 40-bit and 128-bit encryption options. They provide support for Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 and 2000.

The CreditCard Wireless Adapter CWE1120 (40-bit WEP encryption) is listed for retail in Canada at $319. Xircom plans to sell the stronger CWE1130 (128-bit WEP encryption) for $349. For more information, visit