3Com adds oomph to wireless bridges

Company also expands Crossbeam relationship to resell larger X series appliances.

3Com this week plans to unveil a wireless LAN bridge that quadruples the throughput of the company's current line.

3Com this week plans to unveil a wireless LAN bridge that quadruples the throughput of the company's current line.

The 802.11g bridge can span up to 8 miles between buildings, with throughput of up to 20M or 25M bit/sec, depending on distance. Wireless bridges based on WLAN radios let users quickly set up broadband network connections in place of T-1 lines with ongoing monthly fees or costly fiber runs.

One 3Com customer that intends to buy the new product is Vineland Public Schools in New Jersey. The school district has several 3Com 11M bit/sec 802.11b bridges, which supplement its private fiber network.

The bridges bring the network at the central site to several remote buildings or temporary classrooms, where wireline connections are not practical, says Stephen Dantinne, the schools' technology supervisor.

The 802.11b bridges have worked fine, he says, but more users and more demanding applications are taxing the 5M to 7M bit/sec of throughput. The 802.11g bridge will handle traffic loads for the foreseeable future, he says.

Vineland uses the bridges in one case to extend the network from a school with a fiber link to a rented building across a busy street and a field. "It's not worth $20,000 or $30,000 to string fiber to other sites, where we don't own the buildings or have only a few users," he says.

It also gives Vineland a way to quickly create a relatively inexpensive back-up network in case a length of fiber is cut.

The 802.11g bridge is available in two models, both of which ship later this month. One, about the size and shape of a pizza box, can be mounted outdoors. Under the cover, it has a high-gain 18-dBi antenna, with the 802.11g radio, power supply and other electronics attached behind it. The higher the gain number, in effect, the more sensitive the antenna, and the longer its range. The box costs about $1,600.

The second model  is intended to be set up indoors, such as across a warehouse. You can choose from a selection of panel and omni-directional antennas, with different gains. The base unit costs $990.

3Com redesigned its bridges to add processing power to support Wi-Fi Protected Access, along with the Advanced Encryption System, says Mark Bisaillon, a product manager with 3Com's WLAN division. Also new is support for a bridging specification called Wireless Distribution System (WDS), which is a part of the 802.11 standard. WDS lets radio devices connect to each other and act as bridges or repeaters.

Security deal

In other 3Com news, the company this week is announcing that it is reselling Crossbeam's multi-service security appliance known as the X Series. 3Com will sell two models under the names Security Switch 7245 and 7280, the former having seven slots and the latter 14. The slots can be populated with server blades that support various security functions including virus protection, firewall and VPN.

These two devices are designed to protect data centers, act as security gateways for large organizations, contain the spread of viruses and worms within LANs and support hosted security services for ISPs.

These two additions to the 3Com line are part of an earlier agreement with Crossbeam to resell the gear. 3Com already resells a lower-capacity C Series Crossbeam box under the name Security Switch 6200.

Network World Senior Editor Tim Greene contributed to this story.

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