Dual Access Points for Wireless Networking

As the popularity of wireless LANs (WLANs) increases, access points, those little boxes that connect the wired world to wireless devices, are popping up all over campus. Access points are what keep WLAN clients connected as they roam about a facility. But choosing the right hardware from among the wide array of vendors and product lines can be challenging. To complicate matters further, a new higher-speed wireless standard, 802.11a (or WiFi5), is now available, and an even newer one (802.11g) is coming. Network managers have to choose to comply with the old 802.11b (WiFi) standard, which supports users at up to 11Mbps, or the new WiFi5, which offers support for high-bandwidth applications like streaming video. Or they can put in dual access points, which comply with both standards, while simultaneously planning for the next wave. Because dual access points seem to offer a solution to this problem, we’ve decided to profile the major vendors.

Cisco Aironet 1200 Series

Cisco promises secure and reliable management of the current WLAN configuration while setting the stage for a smooth migration to WiFi5. The modular design of the Cisco Aironet 1200 Series allows for both single- and dual-band configuration, plus field upgradability to modify these configurations as user requirements change and the technology evolves. The product can accommodate one radio for WiFi and another radio for high-speed WiFi5 clients. In other words, it’s possible to use the slower standard for some purposes and the higher standard for others, without having to purchase two types of access points. Instead, users would purchase the additional radio module as bandwidth needs grow. Extra memory is there to support further upgrades down the line. Cisco secures the connection with its Wireless Security Suite, which is based on the IEEE 802.1X standard and its Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP). The company promises reliability through its time-tested fourth-generation radio and its redundant hot-standby backup access point. A rugged case and mounting and locking features are designed for durability and theft resistance. Contact: Cisco, www.cisco.com

Intel Pro/Wireless 5000

Named a 2002 product of the year by Networking magazine, the Intel Pro/-Wireless 5000 LAN Dual Access Point promises to deliver reliable connectivity for high bandwidth applications. Full IEEE 802.11a and 802.11b compliance simultaneously supports wireless LAN users at up to 54 Mbps and up to 11 Mbps. With the product, organizations can preserve their investments in WiFi technology while simultaneously migrating over to WiFi5. As with the Cisco system, organizations can add WiFi5 modules as needed. Eight non-overlapping channels and three for WiFi provide access for more users, with up to 432 Mbps network capacity in a particular area. The product comes with a software-configurable antenna and site survey tools to facilitate placement and configuration. The device can be mounted or placed on a table. Contact Intel, Santa Clara, Calif; (800) 538-3373; www.intel.com/network/connectivity.

Proxim Harmony Series

The multi-standard access point product, which offered the first 802.11a products available, won the Network World Editor’s Choice Award, primarily because it offered greater WiFi5 roaming range than most of its competition. Proxim also claims to have the industry’s fastest wireless LAN, with a WiFi5 speed of 108 Mbps, facilitating conference room collaboration, classroom networking, and hot spots. Additionally, 802.11a (WiFi5) has 8 channels to support more users and higher bandwidth applications. The product is designed to accommodate WiFi, WiFi5, and the future 802.11g standard. As with the other dual access points profiled here, users simply add modules to comply with the new standards. The centralized configuration, security, and management setup lower costs of ownership. The Harmony solution also offers the highest level of security available with support for 802.1x. Contact: Proxim Corporation, Sunnyvale, Calif.; (800) 229-1630; www.proxim.com.

Symbol Technologies

The company d'es not market dual mode access points, believing that dual-mode access point strategies will add significant deployment and maintenance costs to large deployments over time. However, the company offers two cost effective strategies for co-adopting 802.11a with 802.11b. Existing Symbol customers looking to immediately adopt 802.11a should consider the Mobius 5224 Access Point, which is designed to snap onto already installed Spectrum24 frequency hopping and Spectrum24 High Rate Wi-Fi access points to instantly create dual-mode wireless access. For customers looking for a single system to manage multiple standard-based wireless networks, Symbol offers the Mobius Axon Wireless System, the first wireless networking switch and access port system designed to deliver and manage IEEE 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and Bluetooth wireless technologies. Delivering wireless through Mobius Axon Access Ports, the Mobius Axon Wireless Switch houses all the network management, security, network services, and other intelligence of high performance, standard-based wireless networking into a scalable system that resides at the core of the network. Symbol says the new system delivers a much lower total cost of ownership when compared to deploying and maintaining enterprise-class, intelligent 802.11b and 802.11a dual-mode WLAN access points. Contact: Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y.; 800.722.6234; www.symbol.com.

D-Link AirPro

The DWL-6000AP Wireless Network 2.4GHz/5GHz Multimode wireless access point offers 11 non-overlapping channels, boasting transfer rates of up to 72Mbps with D-Link AirPro adapters in the 5GHz frequency range and 22Mbps with D-Link AirPlus adapters in the 2.4GHz frequency range. Up to eight units can be installed in any location. In addition to bridging 802.11a and 802.11b wireless networks, the D-Link AirPro DWL-6000AP can bridge to wired networks with its integrated 10/100 Ethernet port. The DWL-6000AP supports user-selectable encryption settings, up to 152-bit WEP on the 5GHz band and up to 256-bit WEP on the 2.4GHz band. Contact: D-Link, Irvine, Calif; (800) 326-1688; www.dlink.com.

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