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Symbol Technologies Inc. is readying multiband Wi-Fi support for its WLAN switching system that will give enterprises more bandwidth to support voice, video and data all managed from a central location.

Symbol will introduce next month the AP300, a thin “access port” that supports 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g simultaneously. While 802.11g and 802.11a offer similar speeds, the latter is considered a better choice for voice and video traffic, as it runs in a less crowded frequency band.

The AP300 will work with Symbol’s family of wireless LAN switches, which are designed to centralize the intelligence of a WLAN.

Initially, multiband support will be limited to Symbol’s branch-office switch, the WS 2000. Support for 802.11a/b/g in the larger WS 5000 switch will come shortly thereafter, said officials at Symbol, in San Jose, Calif.

According to the officials, enterprise customers are demanding 802.11a in branch offices for applications such as wireless video surveillance and voice over IP.

Symbol has traditionally served vertical-industry customers, such as United Parcel Service of America Inc., that use the company’s ruggedized handheld devices. And while scanners and handheld computers still make up most of Symbol’s sales, the company is increasing its focus on the small-office/branch-office WLAN market. Symbol signed up some 200 resellers to focus on the space in the past several months, officials said.

Click here to read about UPS’ worldwide wireless strategy.

“Once you have gone down the road of using a switch-based wireless vendor, it makes sense to standardize, even for the smaller sites,” said Chip Greel, senior network engineer at Finisar Corp., in Sunnyvale, Calif., which uses switches from Trapeze Networks Inc.

Some smaller WLAN switch companies, including Trapeze, already offer multiband access points. Symbol officials said the company waited until now to ensure that the AP300 included support for the latest security protocols, such as 802.11i and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2); virtual WLANs; and fast roaming among access ports.

“The reason the WS 2000 has been successful in SMBs [small and midsize businesses] is because it’s secure,” said Graham Melville, a product director in the wireless infrastructure division at Symbol.

Meanwhile, WLAN chip-set maker Atheros Communications Inc. this week will launch the Atheros AR5006X, which combines 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g on a single chip. The chip includes a media access controller, a baseband processor, and a radio with dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz capabilities, said officials at Atheros, also in Sunnyvale.

Besides the IEEE-standard protocols, the chip can support Atheros’ Super AG mode, which accommodates link rates of up to 108M bps.

Atheros officials declined to name potential licensees for the multiband radio chip but said they include “the usual suspects.” Atheros’ current licensees include several major WLAN hardware companies, such as Cisco Systems Inc.

Combining WLAN radio components should result in lower cost and improved battery life for customers, according to analysts. The new Atheros chip set has 15 percent fewer parts than its predecessor and will cost less than $12 each in units of 10,000, officials said.

Volume production is expected by the end of the year.

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