Vendors spotlight 802.11n WLANs

Three wireless LAN vendors unveiled at Interop Las Vegas last month enterprise access points that will offer 100Mbps to 200Mbps throughput, shared among the Wi-Fi clients that connect to it.

All three, from Colubris, Ruckus, and Trapeze, are based on the IEEE 802.11n Draft 2 standard. Colubris, of Waltham, Mass., plans to offer a two-radio access point, the Multiservice Access Point (MAP)-625. One radio is intended to support existing 802.11a, b, and g clients. The second radio, based on Atheros silicon, support the 11n draft 2 standard.

This approach lets enterprise users start adding 11n support into the WLAN infrastructure, which will still support existing wireless clients until they, too, are outfitted with an 11n adapter, according to Carl Blume, Colubris’ director of strategic marketing.

And, with existing clients on a dedicated radio, they won’t throttle down the 11n connection. The 11n access point can detect, for example, an 11b client trying to connect with it, says Roger Sands, the company’s vice-president of engineering. When it does, the 11n chipset will “jump down” to the 11Mbps data rate, which is the maximum for an 11b. A further performance hit follows if that 11b client is also an active talker, says Sands.

“He’s consuming more time on the access point, so more of the available [11n] bandwidth is being eaten up at the lower rate,” he says.

The MAP-625 11n radio will deliver useable throughput of 100Mbps minimum, says Sands, with the 11abg radio adding about another 24Mbps. It has one Gigabit Ethernet port, which means the MAP-625 will need to connect to a Gigabit port on the nearest LAN edge switch.

For enterprise nets with Gigabit edge switches, the impact of 11n will be minimal. But closer to the network core, as a growing amount of 11n traffic is aggregated, then some LAN switches may have to be upgraded.

Ruckus Wireless unveiled the new 11n ZoneFlex WLAN product line, designed specifically to be easy to deploy and run for small and midsize businesses.

ZoneFlex consists of a new 11g access point, an existing 11g low-end access point for small offices, a new 11n Draft 2 access point, and the ZoneDirector 1000, which is a controller available in three models to support up to 25 access points.

Both access points use Ruckus’ patented built-in antenna technology, which uses several discrete components that Ruckus software can combine in more than 4,000 combinations to optimize the radio signal for a given location, signal environment and traffic load.

This “beam-steering” antenna also boosts the range of Ruckus access points by two or four times compared to conventional omni-directional antennae, according to Selina Lo, president and CEO of the Sunnyvale, Calif., vendor. Longer range has two benefits in enterprise networks. It can mean using fewer access points to cover a given area.

But the more important benefit is that the signal between access point and clients is stronger and more consistent at any given distance, creating a more reliable wireless connection.

Trapeze Networks of Pleasanton, Calif., introduced its Mobility Ppoint(MP)-432 11n Draft 2 access point. It, too, uses the Atheros dual-band MIMO chipset, in a three-by-three antenna configuration for each band. The two radios, one for 11bgn one for 11an, will be able to run at the same time.

Two Gigabit Ethernet ports are the network uplinks. “Our customers are not saying to us, ‘We don’t want to see your 11n products until the IEEE wraps a bow around the [11n] standard,’” says David Cohen, the company’s director of product marketing.

When using the optional 40 MHz channels, which are double the typical WLAN channel, each radio will support a 300Mbps data rate, one in the 2.4-GHz band, and one in the 5-GHz band, or 600Mbps total for the access point. The TCP/IP throughput will be about 200Mbps per band, according to Cohen. The new 432 models, modeled after a smoke detector, will work with the existing Trapeze controllers. 076804

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