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Cisco Systems unveiled a new wireless LAN access point Wednesday that uses both the 802.11a and 802.11b standards, the company announced.

Cisco's Aironet 1200 Series Access Point can operate simultaneously in the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequency bands.

The newer 802.11a wireless Ethernet standard uses frequencies in the 5GHz range, while products for the 802.11b technology, also known as Wi-Fi, use the 2.4GHz range. The 802.11a specification supports data transfer speeds of up to 54M bps (bits per second), about five times the speed of 802.11b, but Wi-Fi's lower frequency gives it greater range.

By supporting both frequency bands, the San Jose, California, network equipment maker's new access points will let customers move to the newer standard without having to trash their old wireless gear all at once. The modular design will allow users to upgrade the access point to the upcoming 802.11g standard for wireless LANs when equipment for that spec becomes available. The 802.11g spec uses the 2.4GHz band, but is as fast as 802.11a.

A standard version of the Aironet 1200 access point is equipped with one 802.11b radio module, with an additional slot for an 802.11a radio module. These radio modules can also be upgraded to 802.11g as equipment becomes available. Customers can opt for modules to be installed at the factory. The access point uses a 200MHz PowerPC processor and supports the operation of two 54M-bps radio modules simultaneously, as well as 10/100 Ethernet interface.

The factory standard Aironet 1200 access point without an 802.11a radio begins shipping this month and has a list price of US$999, while the dual-band version will be available in August at $1,499. An 802.11a card, also available in August, will cost $229.

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