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8/27/2004
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Wi-Fi Wall Jacks To Enable Wireless Grid

The technology will lower Wi-Fi installation costs and let businesses more easily deploy a high-capacity wireless network.

Businesses looking to deploy a wireless LAN will soon have an alternative to climbing a ladder and installing access points on the ceiling. Aruba Wireless Networks Inc., a Wi-Fi systems vendor, and Ortronics Inc., a provider of cabling systems, on Monday are unveiling 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 will let businesses install more wireless access points, creating a "wireless grid" that will result in a network with a greater data-carrying capacity than a conventional wireless network, says Merwyn Andrade, Aruba's chief technology officer. A wireless grid can also provide more-accurate asset-tracking and location-tracking services than a regular wireless network, he says.

"What Aruba does is allow you to put in an access point in a matter of moments," says Craig Mathias, a principal at Farpoint Group, an advisory firm that specializes in wireless and mobile technology. "This is a very significant step forward in terms of minimizing the expense involved."

The lower cost will let businesses deploy more access points, which will boost the capacity of a wireless network, Mathias says. "Businesses have been building wireless networks that were optimized for coverage, not capacity, because access points are very expensive and installation costs also are very expensive."

Specific prices for the Wi-Jacks were not available. They will be sold as part of a system that includes Ortronics cabling and an Aruba switch. But Aruba executives say the Wi-Fi wall jacks will eliminate 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 reduce the amount of money needed for support and troubleshooting, they say.

Each Wi-Jack will include a radio that provides 802.11a (54 Mbps) or 802.11b/g (11 Mbps and 54 Mbps) service. Ortronics initially plans to offer two types of Wi-Jacks. One will provide two wired Ethernet connections with an Aruba wireless access point built in; the other will just include the wireless access point without the additional Ethernet ports. The access points will be linked to an Aruba wireless controller, which can be used to automatically configure and control the access point. The Wi-Jacks are expected to be available by the end of September.

Mathias expects the wall-jack approach to building wireless LANs to "catch on very quickly. As network loads keep increasing, and as businesses look to add voice to their wireless networks, you need a denser deployment of access points to handle the loads."

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