3Com has announced what it describes as the “industry’s first Wi-Fi certified workgroup bridge” that extends the reach of wireless connectivity.
Wi-Fi is the de facto “seal of interoperability” for IEEE 802.11b-compliant High Rate wireless LAN products. IEEE 802.11b is an industry standard for wireless networking products, and Apple has been a pioneer in its adoption with the development of AirPort cards and base stations.
A member of WECA (the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance), Apple has received Wi-Fi certification for its AirPort products. However, even though Apple adopted 802.11b early and coined the term AirPort, the technology is by no means specific to the Mac. Macs and PCs can communicate through the same access points using 802.11b-compliant wireless cards and interfaces.
As the adoption of wireless local area networks (WLANs) continues to grow, many organizations are using wireless as an easy and affordable way to expand the reach of network connectivity to visitors, temporary locations and legacy desktop systems in order to avoid the high cost of leasing lines or laying cable, according to Rob Karnbach, solutions line business manager, LAN Infrastructure Division, 3Com’s Business Networks Company. 3Com’s new 11Mbps Wireless LAN Workgroup Bridge offers “quick and cost effective” wired-to-wireless bridging for any Ethernet-enabled device to any Wi-Fi certified wireless LAN infrastructure, he said.
By connecting the new 3Com Wireless Workgroup Bridge to a hub, companies can gain wireless connectivity for up to four Ethernet-enabled devices — including personal computers, printers, phones and Internet appliances. The Workgroup Bridge offers businesses a cost-savings when compared to using standard Wi-Fi certified adapters to wirelessly connect each device, Karnbach said. By using the bridge with 3Com’s NBX networked telephony system, organizations can deploy a fully managed voice and data network wirelessly, he added.
“This solution is well suited to educational institutions — from K-12 to higher education,” Karnback said. “The Workgroup Bridge enables schools to connect Macintosh computers and legacy PCs to the wireless network. It also works well for portable classrooms where easy set up and flexibility are critical.”
The 3Com 11Mbps Wireless LAN Workgroup Bridge has an internal Web server designed to make it easy to configure, monitor and manage locally or remotely using an Internet browser or other standard-based tools. To protect customers’ information, the 3Com Bridge supports both 40-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and 128-bit shared key encryption. The wireless bridge is also transparent to Virtual Private Network protocols, using a special encapsulation protocol to avoid conflicts with other tunneling protocols.
The 3Com 11 Mbps Wireless LAN Workgroup Bridge offers a security feature called Dynamic Security Link. When used with 3Com’s 11 Mbps Wireless LAN solutions, Dynamic Security Link supports “username/password” security and 128-bit encryption. Unlike WEP, this security mechanism gives each user a unique key, and changes that key with every session, making it much harder to break, Karnback said.
Interested users can order the 3Com 11 Mbps Wireless LAN Workgroup Bridge now — it is expected to ship worldwide in January. The product has a list price of US$349.
As for the WECA organization, its founding members — 3Com, Cisco Systems, Intersil, Lucent Technologies, Nokia and Symbol Technologies — united in August 1999 to drive the adoption of one globally accepted standard for high-speed, wireless, local area networking: the IEEE 802.11b HR standard. Products built to the new standard operate in the 2.4 GHz radio band and transmit at a raw data rate of 11Mbps.
WECA says the unified support of this standard will facilitate the rapid deployment and adoption of these products to ensure global, broadband, wireless connectivity across the enterprise, small office, public access and home markets.