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8/27/2004
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Wi-Fi Jacks May Lead To Cheaper Networks

Technology could lower installation costs and let companies more easily deploy Wi-Fi

Businesses looking to deploy wireless LANs will soon have an alternative to installing access points on the ceiling. Aruba Wireless Networks, a Wi-Fi systems vendor, and Ortronics Inc., a provider of cabling systems, this week will unveil Wi-Fi wall jacks.

Billed as the "world's first" Wi-Fi wall outlet, the Wi-Jack includes Aruba's wireless access-point radio technology built into a standard data wall outlet. It will reduce the cost of installing a wireless access point from $1,500 or more to around $125, the vendors say.

That would let businesses install more wireless access points, creating a network with greater data-carrying capacity than a conventional wireless network, says Craig Mathias, a principal with consulting firm Farpoint Group. Aruba lets you "put in an access point in a matter of moments," he says. "This is a significant step forward in terms of minimizing the expense involved."

Businesses have been building wireless networks that were optimized for coverage, not capacity, because access points and installation costs are very expensive.

Specific prices for the jacks aren't available yet. They will be sold as part of a system that includes Ortronics cabling and an Aruba switch. But Aruba executives say the jacks will eliminate or reduce many of the costs associated with installing a conventional Wi-Fi access point on the ceiling, including $100 for a site survey, $500 or more to provide power to the access point, $250 or more for cabling to connect the access point to a data network, and $200 for configuration. It also will cut costs for support and troubleshooting, they say.

Each Wi-Jack will include a radio that provides 802.11a or 802.11b/g service. Ortronics plans to offer two types of Wi-Jacks initially. One will provide two wired Ethernet connections with an Aruba wireless access point built in; the other will just include the wireless access point. The Wi-Jacks are expected to be available by the end of September.

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