Cisco spices up wireless LAN wares

During its wireless LAN (WLAN) advanced technology event in San Jose last month, Cisco Systems Inc. introduced new products, including its first 54Mbps 802.11g radios.

Included on the list of new product announcements are Cisco’s Aironet 1200 and 1100 series of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.11g Access Point (AP) products.

The company’s new devices provide a maximum data rate of 54Mbps and were designed to be backward compatible with Cisco Aironet, Cisco Compatible 802.11b clients and the Cisco Wireless IP Phone 7920. The company is providing a migration path for the Cisco Aironet 1200 and 1100 series 802.11b access points with 802.11g radio upgradeable modules, the company said.

Larry Birenbaum, senior vice-president of the Ethernet access technology group at Cisco, said the company is offering a software upgrade after ratification of the IEEE 802.11i standard in 2004 for advanced Encryption standard (AES) – which is already supported in the hardware and will be enabled for all Cisco Aironet 802.11g products next year.

Cisco’s Aironet 1100 series is priced at US$599 and its Cisco Aironet 1200 series is priced at US$899. Both are expected to ship this month.

Cisco, along with independent research firm NOP World Technology, also released a report highlighting the development of WLAN adoption.

The report, entitled 2003 Wireless LAN Benefits Study, is the second such study the firm has done for Cisco. The first was conducted in 2001.

Key results from the report indicated that since the report in 2001, there has been significant productivity growth and greater financial gains observed by organizations that have deployed a larger number of WLANs.

When it comes to Wi-Fi, Rob Redford, vice-president of product and technology marketing at Cisco, said customers are looking for three things: businesses want to have more time for their employees; they are looking to save and make more money; and they want enhanced business opportunities.

With this in mind, the study found that end users noticed a 27 per cent increase in productivity and, on average, they were connected to the network three-and-a-half hours more per day – up from the one-and-three-quarter hour increase organizations observed in 2001.

The 2003 study also indicated that growth in WLAN deployment is not only increasing within organizations, but in key hotspot locations including airport lounges, coffee shops and hotels.

Matthew Nuss, vice-president of operations at Hotel Valencia in San Jose, said during Wednesday’s event that his hotel chose to deploy Wi-Fi connectivity from CIsco because it needed to stand out from the crowd.

“With a relatively new name like Hotel Valencia, we needed to create some buzz, some sex appeal. Not just with the [hotel itself] but with technology,” Nuss said.

He added that customers now think it is “a must” to have wireless capabilities in hotels as opposed to a luxury, like it may have been thought of a few years ago.

Nuss said it wasn’t difficult to convince the hotel’s executives that a WLAN deployment would be a positive move even though the technology itself is traditionally known not to have clear return on investment (ROI) propositions.

“I just sat down with my corporate controller and we talked about what we expect when we travel,” he explained.

Nuss said that it is essential for industries like his to realize that everything evolves from the end user and companies must keep up with them. He noted that deploying WLAN technology kept with the image that the hotel wanted to present to its customers “from the way we picked our sheets, to the way we finished our walls, to the way we developed our technology.”

Birenbaum agreed with Nuss and said that hotels in general will require this capability not because they will make money from it, but because if they don’t have it, they will be losing “heads in beds.”

In its report, NOP said the flexibility that WLAN use provides has contributed to a time savings of almost 80 minutes per employee, per workday. This is an increase of almost 30 minutes per day from the 2001 report.

The study also indicated that today, almost 25 per cent of employees within mid-size and large organizations access WLAN technology, up from 16 per cent in 2001.

Because 80 per cent of WLAN users in the study connect to a network via laptops, NOP said that the report validates the thought that the propensity for increased WLAN deployment is tied to the adoption of portable devices.

Gil Sturgis, the network services manager at Florida Hospital in Orlando, and a Cisco customer that also attended the wireless event, said that Florida Hospital has roughly 600 wireless devices deployed – the majority of which are PCs.

He said that, for the most part, the hospital uses laptops mounted on carts because this provides the flexibility for the nurses to work from anywhere.

“This also improves the nurse’s productivity because she is not walking back and forth to the nurse’s station,” Sturgis added.

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