Cisco integrates Wi-Fi with access routers

* Multifunction access routers gain Wi-Fi

For businesses trying to tame capital costs at smaller sites, Cisco has integrated wireless LAN functionality into its latest line of WAN access routers and introduced new router models to the family.

The company's 1800, 2800 and 3800 Series Integrated Services Routers (ISR) have all gained 802.11 access point capabilities. New Cisco 800 series routers with optional 802.11b/g WLAN capabilities for small businesses and teleworkers have also joined the Cisco ISR line starting at $399.

Modular, WLAN-capable router members of Cisco 1800 ISR series are also new. Wi-Fi modules for the 1800, 2800 and 3800 series reportedly will be available in July offering 802.11a/b/g support starting at $1,299.

Cisco announced and demonstrated the WLAN capabilities at the Interop trade show in Las Vegas last week.

In mid-January, I wrote that an item on my wish list as a possible fruit of Cisco's purchase of WLAN switch maker Airespace was that it might integrate WLAN switches with its ISRs. Close, but no cigar, I guess. It appears that this integration is based on Cisco Aironet technology and is more of an access-point-in-a-box, rather than anything to do with switch-based management capabilities.

Still, multifunction capabilities at the CPE level for remote offices are certainly the trend du jour. In varying degrees and with different best-of-breed strengths, we're seeing the branch office "all-in-one" device offered up from a variety of players. All things considered here, Cisco's a decent bet, coming from a position of strength in WAN routing, WLANs and security.

Other players of a similar mind:

* Symbol Technologies combines a WLAN switch with dual Ethernet ports for DSL or cable modem broadband connections as WAN links.

* CheckPoint, Fortinet and SonicWall offer Wi-Fi access points combined with security appliances that also support dual Ethernet ports for DSL or cable modem broadband connections as WAN links.

* WLAN switch vendor Trapeze Networks doesn't yet support WAN connections in its branch office-sized switch, but it is closely partnered with 3Com and Nortel, which make remote access routers (hint, nudge, wink).

* CPE maker AdTran prides itself on doing the same thing as Cisco, but as a less-expensive option. No Wi-Fi announcements yet, though.

CORRECTION: A statement in the April 27 newsletter that paraphrased Ron Peck from Intel as saying that most geographies have 5 hertz of spectrum allocated for WiMAX should have stated that most geographies have 5 megahertz of spectrum allocated.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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