Cisco Unveils Dual-Mode WLAN Gear

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-04-17

Cisco Systems Inc. today announced a series of wireless LAN products designed for IT managers who want to migrate to faster products but still support the existing ones.

The Cisco Aironet 1200 Series Access Point supports the simultaneous operation of 802.11b and 802.11a wireless LAN radios. 802.11b, also known as Wi-Fi, is the most prevalent wireless LAN standard today, offering data transmissions of up to 11 Mbps. Laptop computers that come embedded with wireless LAN support generally support 802.11b.

802.11a runs on a different frequency band than its predecessor, though, so in order to support both, an access point must contain two radios.

802.11a, a more nascent standard, supports speeds of up to 54 Mbps, but has been a tough sell for customers who already have wireless LANs installed.

"We dont see the need for the speed increase," said Brian Jones, senior manager of IT research and development at CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wis., which has Cisco 802.11b WLAN products installed in 20 locations.

Cisco designed the new access point to be modular, allowing for both single and dual-mode operation in both the 2.4GHz (for 802.11b) and 5 MHz (for 802.11a) bands. It comes standard with 802.11b support, but comes with an extra slot for the 802.11a upgrade.

Customers can buy the radio modules as an installed option or as separate modules to be upgraded in the field. Both the a and b modules will be upgradeable to future standards that run on their respective frequency bands, officials said. This includes products based on 802.11g, which runs on the same band as 802.11b but at speeds comparable to 802.11a. Cisco will release products based on 802.11g next year, officials said.

The product also includes an antenna that flexes to enable varying coverage patterns.

The 802.11a module is based on Ciscos own chips. Officials said that the company will demonstrate interoperability between Cisco 802.11a products and products based on silicon from Atheros Communications Inc. in May, at the Networld + Interop trade show in Las Vegas

The Cisco Aironet 1200 Series AP, which features a factory standard 802.11b radio and a slot for the 802.11a radio module, costs $999 and will ship this month. The dual-band version, with both 802.11b and 802.11a radios, costs $1,499 and will ship in August. An 802.11a client card also will be available in August, for $229.

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