Cisco introduces new 802.11n wireless access point

The Aironet 1250 is first AP to be certified for 802.11n by Wi-Fi Alliance

Cisco Systems is diving into the emerging 802.11n wireless market with its first 802.11n-based Ethernet access point (AP), the Aironet 1250, which will offer higher speeds and greater reliability for a wide range of enterprise-ready wireless devices.

In an announcement Tuesday, Cisco said the new AP is based on the emerging 802.11n Draft 2 standard, which is still a year or more away from being adopted as a final standard.

The move is being made now, according to the company, because some chip makers and laptop hardware manufacturers have been building 802.11n Draft 2 features into their new products, making them ready for use under the new draft standards. "There's lots of momentum behind it," said Ben Gibson, director of mobility solutions at Cisco.

The Aironet 1250, which will be available for sale next month starting at US$1,299 each, is the first wireless product to be certified for the 802.11n standard by the Wi-Fi Alliance standards body, which reviews and compiles the standards, according to Gibson.

Cisco also said that upcoming 802.11n access points can be powered over their Ethernet connections, making them much easier to deploy. That's important, Gibson said, because they are often placed in ceilings and other remote locations where an electrical outlet is not available, making their installation more complicated.

The move to the 802.11n wireless standard offers customers a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 300MB/sec. That's up from today's theoretical maximum of 54MB/sec. using the 802.11g wireless standard.

"Customers are looking at the prospect of an exponential increase both of the quantity and diversity of Wi-Fi-enabled devices that are going to be coming into the business market," Gibson said. "These devices will need a higher-speed network with higher reliability; that's going to be the driver. Will this happen overnight? Absolutely not."

Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass., said it's a major endorsement of the emerging 802.11n standard by Cisco. For many other vendors in the market, he said, the question has been, Should they wait for the final standard to be adopted, or should they move to bring out products based on the Draft 2 standard? With Cisco's move and adoption of the Draft 2 standard, the floodgates may soon open, Mathias said.

"My feeling is that Cisco is happy with what the Wi-Fi Alliance has done" in creating the latest draft protocol, Mathias said. The standard could still change slightly, but Mathias said he believes it will be relatively close to the Draft 2 standard at final adoption. "What Cisco is basically saying is, 'There's a new technology available, the risk is very low, we know that customers want to buy it, so we're in the game,'" he said.

With the prospect of better bandwidth, improved capacity and higher reliability, the move to 802.11n makes sense for Cisco, users and other vendors, he said. "The bottom line is it's happening now," Mathias said. "There's no reason to wait."

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