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Siemens' RF system complies with 802.3af PoE

Posted: 25 Jan 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PoE  802.11n  Siemens wireless technology 

Siemens Communications is the latest enterprise wireless network vendor to jump into the 802.11n pool. The company this week introduced its own version of gear for systems based on the emerging high-speed specification for Wi-Fi networks.

Though not yet finally ratified by the IEEE, the 802.11n standard is expected to offer five times the throughput of existing Wi-Fi networks, plus increased stability and reliability.

Full ratification of the new spec by the IEEE has been delayed several times, and final approval is now expected sometime late this year or in early 2009. Major wireless vendors including Cisco, which dominates the market for enterprise wireless networks with around 65 per cent share, and Aruba Networks have already introduced equipment based on the draft version of the 802.11n standard, but Luc Roy, Siemens VP of enterprise mobility, claims that no one until now has solved the technological challenges associated with the higher power access points and controllers.

"There are issues out there with the previous .11n systems getting fully deployed, and we've actually solved those," Roy said in an interview.

Electricity issues
Primarily the issues he refers to center around electricity, specifically PoE, which is how most enterprises bring power to the access points in typical wireless network set-ups. Most 802.11n systems require more power than a typical Ethernet switch—based on the 802.3af standard—can provide. Different vendors solve this problem in different ways: Aruba says its new access points will work just fine over conventional, existing electrical systems (though at reduced performance in some instances), while Cisco uses a "discovery protocol" between some of its switch models and APs to deliver extra power where needed for the higher throughput required for .11n. Other vendors require an upgrade to new, proprietary PoE infrastructure.

Siemens says it is the first manufacturer to fully handle the electrical challenge. The company's HiPath Wireless system "is the first solution to provide full dual-band 3x3 MIMO and 802.11n functionality that complies with the 802.3af power-over Ethernet standard," according to a statement.

"More than 80 per cent of our customers are using power-over-Ethernet to power their APs," Roy said, "and 802.11n is very power-hungry. So we knew we'd better make sure it's compatible."

The Siemens technology also allows traffic to be routed locally, on the access points, or centrally via the controller. The result, Roy said, is an easier and more cost-effective upgrade path for enterprises wishing to shift from existing 802.11a/b/g to the new standard.

"If you want to do .11n today, we say, 'My gosh, do it!'" Roy said. "Without any restrictions."

Slow uptake
Despite the industry push on 802.11n, companies have been slow to migrate to the new technology thus far. Many are waiting for the final specification to emerge from the IEEE, while others are awaiting the second wave of adoption, when the dust has settled on competing claims. Daniel Corsetti, an analyst at research group IDC, predicts that sales of enterprise wireless networking gear will grow to Rs.30,003.58 crore ($7.6 billion) in 2011 from under Rs.11,843.52 crore ($3 billion) in 2006. Virtually all that growth will be in 802.11n gear, and Siemens, which has been a relatively small player in the U.S. wireless market, believes it can capture a small but significant chunk of it.

The Siemens equipment is in trials now and is expected to be widely available in March. New HiPath Wireless Access Points will sell for a list price of Rs.51,321.91 ($1,300) apiece.

- Richard Martin

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