Motorola wireless LAN adds mesh to indoor networks

Motorola airs 802.11n access point, plus wireless controller

Motorola has released a Draft 802.11n access point that supports wireless meshing, plus a new wireless controller.

The access point ships with two 802.11n radios, but has an optional third expansion slot. With all three operational, one can be dedicated to client access, one to radio-frequency security scanning, and one to wireless mesh backhaul. The expansion slot can be fitted in the future with a WiMAX or other 3G pr 4G radio. The mesh capability, coupled with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support, lets an enterprise deploy a wireless LAN with minimal Ethernet and power cabling.

Motorola also announced plans to release a version of its LANPlanner WLAN design and planning application by June, with support for 802.11n devices.

Mesh access points are rare in indoor enterprise-class WLAN products. In 2006, Meru Networks unveiled a wireless backhaul between its access points and controller, and Firetide's wireless products are designed to create a 802.11 mesh infrastructure into which can be plugged Firetide or third-party access points. Ruckus Wireless has what it calls a "light mesh" feature to link some of its access points. (Compare products with our online Enterprise Wireless LAN Buyer's Guide.)

Network World wireless blogger Craig Mathias liked what he saw during a demonstration of the new Motorola products.

The new access point is the Motorola AP-7131. As do many of its rivals, the 7131 divides the data stream, creating what are called two "spatial streams," and transmits these via three antennas. Because it has three other receiving antennas (again, like many of its rivals), the 7131 is known as a 3x3 configuration. The "extra" antenna can be used in conjunction with several techniques to improve the reliability of the signal and sustain data rates over longer distances. Each spatial stream has a data rate of 150Mbps (300Mbps for each radio), although actual throughput is 80M to more than 100Mbps.

Motorola's new AP-7131 access point

Marvell earlier this year announced an 11n chip that would make use of three spatial streams and a 3x3 antenna configuration, promising a 450Mbps data rate. Both radios can run in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. It's scheduled to ship in volume by July.

Today, most clientside 11n cards and adapters run only on the 2.4GHz band. But that's starting to change: Netgear, for example, now offers the RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N USB adapter, which can run in either band. The current crop of 11n clients support two spatial streams, over two transmit- and two receive-antennas (2x2), due to a combination of cost and design issues.

The 7131, with the spiderlike appearance characteristic of 11n devices, can work in two modes: as a stand-alone device in a small-to-midsize enterprise, or as a thin access point in a centrally administered WLAN with the corresponding Motorola switch. It incorporates a MIPS-based network processor; an RF chipset that supports Dynamic Frequency Selection 2, enabling it to make use of additional 5GHz channels;  and two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Motorola rates the access point at 600Mbps.

With one of the three radios dedicated to RF-scanning, the device can run round-the-clock as an intrusion detection/protection system.

The 7131 is priced at $1,199, and is expected to ship in April.The new WLAN controller, the Motorola RFS6000, introduces support for the mesh. The RFS6000 is a mid-range controller, between the 256-port RFS7000 and the six-port WS200.

It has eight PoE ports for 11n devices; a PCI Express slot for WAN backhaul adapters, such as for Evolution-Data Optimized, High-Speed Downlink Packet Access and WiMAX; and a PCI expansion slot for services, such as those provided by an IP PBX. The RFS6000 can support as many as 48 of the new access points, and as many as 2,000 users, Motorola says.

Anticipating enterprise demand for Voice over wireless LAN, Motorola has designed the controller to incorporate several features intended to optimize it: QoS for toll-quality voice calls and the Wi-Fi Multimedia Extensions, along with fast roaming across Layer 3 boundaries.

It supports 802.1X authentication and the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2 industry specifications. It has integrated stateful firewalls; VPN; an authentication, authorization and accounting server; and network access control.

The eight-port RSF6000, priced at $2,900, also is expected to ship in April.

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