Bandspeed AirMaestro Offers Enterprise-Grade Wireless LAN to SMBs

Bandspeed's AirMaestro gives smaller businesses an enterprise-level wireless LAN option at a comfortable price. The technology proved reliable for wireless data and voice clients. But problems with the centralized management features might prove daunting to the smallest of companies.

With its AirMaestro solution, Bandspeed provides many enterprise-grade wireless LAN capabilities to small businesses at an affordable price, requiring minimal time or expertise to get started.

While the system provided reliable service for wireless data and voice clients alike, shortcomings in AirMaestro's centralized management capabilities will limit the appeal of the product only with the very smallest shops that don't anticipate significant growth in the scope of their wireless deployment.

Bandspeed offers a starter kit, consisting of two AirMaestro 3100AG Virtual Controller Access Points and the AirMaestro WLAN Management console, for $1499. Individually, the 3100AG APs can be bought for $599, and the WLAN Management Console for $499. Or, for a limited time, Bandspeed currently offers a free copy of its WLAN Monitor Console (normally priced at $199) with the purchase of a 3100AG AP.

Each 3100AG access point comes with three 802.11a/g radios, allowing Bandspeed customers to simultaneously advertise networks in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, with the third radio scanning constantly cycling though both bands to provide rogue detection and mitigation or on-demand spectrum analysis. Each AP comes with a pair of 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports, one of which is enabled for 802.3af Power over Ethernet.

Click here to see eWEEK Labs' walk-through of Bandspeed's AirMaestro.

Bandspeed does not currently offer draft-802.11n-enabled access points. Bandspeed representatives said they are timing their solution for when the standard is fully ratified.

Unlike many business-oriented WLAN solutions available today, Bandspeed does not offer a wireless controller appliance. Similar in design to the offering from Aerohive, but aimed much further down market, Bandspeed APs form a collective over the wire-working together to make the decisions on appropriate channel allocation and power levels, as well as when to load balance clients.

When I first powered up each 3100AG access point, the devices self organized into a default cluster, where a cluster is the Bandspeed unit of organization. Because the default cluster is unsecured-every Bandspeed AP on the same subnet can join the cluster and communication between APs is unsecured-administrators should immediately create a new cluster, assign it a management IP address, secure management traffic via SSL, and move the APs to it.

Wireless administrators can assign up to 16 different wireless networks per radio, assigning each network distinct security and authentication requirements. The AirMaestro system actually lets administrators choose a service type for each network as well, as Bandspeed offers data service-which is the traditional one-cell/one-channel model-and a voice blanket service that extends a single channel (and network BSSID) across all APs assigned to the wireless network.