Wireless equipment maker 3Com Corp. will try to take the "local" out of WLANs next week with new products that support wireless LANs connecting far-flung buildings.
The Santa Clara, Calif., company is set to introduce a Wi-Fi- certified, interbuilding gateway that enables connections to industry-approved WLAN access points.
3Coms Wireless LAN Building-to-Building Bridge is aimed at companies that want an inexpensive alternative to leased lines, as well at companies that need easily re-configurable wireless connections across highways or bridges, officials said.
The bridge transfers data up to 15 miles at rates of about 6M bps, officials said. Depending on the antenna—customers can choose among several—the bridge does either point-to-point or point-to-multipoint connections.
Potential customers with major data security concerns are still wary about the idea of a bridge.
"There would be concerns with building-to-building communications bleeding out into the streets," said Jeff Komarek, an analyst at the Chicago Board of Trade. "We have enough concerns about that with a WLAN in a single room."
Gilles Ganault, product manager for WLAN infrastructure at 3Com, acknowledged that "theres no perfect security," but the bridge supports both 40- and 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy encryption, as well as 802.11x and media access control, address-based authentication procedures. Users can authenticate or de-authenticate networks from a central location, officials said. Each access point will include the addresses of all other access points connected to the bridge, according to Ganault.
The bridge costs $990, with additional omni-directional antennas ranging in price from $119 to $249. Officials said the bridge can be used for voice transmissions as well as data.
"The voice-over-IP quality on this bridge is a lot better than it was in our previous products," said Ganault.
Meanwhile, 3Com is also launching what the company calls a WMAN (wireless metropolitan area network) in Rolling Meadows, Ill.
The Rolling Meadows WMAN is a project, largely funded by 3Com, designed to bring relevant metropolitan information to the masses. The WMAN includes a portal that enables residents to sign up for e-mail accounts, register their vehicles, obtain various licenses and perform other general municipal functions through the network.
3Com plans to launch similar networks in other small U.S. cities and will use the WMANs as a model for deploying networks in university and corporate campuses as well.