Symbol Technologies Inc. has unveiled the first of a family of wireless LAN access point devices designed to smooth the transition from older 802.11 nets that use the 2.4GHz band to the emerging 802.11a nets that use the 5.2GHz band.
The new Mobius 5224 Access Point is rigged with a 54M-bits/sec 11a interface card. But it's also designed to snap onto an already installed Symbol Spectrum24 11M bits/sec 802.11b access point (or the older 1-2M bit/sec frequency hopping product).
Symbol says the attachment takes just a couple of minutes to install and the 5224 uses the same installed Ethernet cabling and power source as the 11b device, while adding a new, shared antenna.
The result is that no changes have to be made to the existing 11b infrastructure, which continues to support existing applications.
Activating the Mobius 11a net, creates a series of high-bandwidth "hotspots" without having to pull new cable or do electrical work. If the installed 11b access points, on which Mobius is piggybacking, are close enough the 11a cells will overlap, increasing the size of the hotspot.
To eventually create a full 11a network blanketing the same area as the existing 11b net, enterprises likely would have to buy additional Mobius products (due out later this year) and extend their Ethernet cabling and electrical connections.
"The idea for this really came from our customers," says Gary Singh, director of marketing for Symbol's wireless infrastructure products. "It lets them share power over Ethernet and share the antennas. It's just a snap-on."
A few other vendors have announced products aimed at the same migration problem. One approach is an access point with two slots, one for 11b interface card and one for an 11a card that's added later. Symbol considered this but rejected it, because, according to Singh, swapping cards is not as easy as it sounds and because it can lead to interruptions in service.
The Mobius 5224 is now in beta test and will ship by June 2002. Pricing hasn't been finalized but will be comparable to the cost of Symbol's corresponding standalone products: about US$900 for the 11a access point, and about $800 more if it's ordered from the factory already mated with an 11b access point.