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Connecting a wireless LAN to wired broadband is pretty much old hat; the market is littered with hundreds of devices that do just that and a little more. So, how does one find new market share in such a crowded market? Just come up with a better mousetrap!

ZyXEL’s better mousetrap comes in the form of the ZyWALL 2WG Secure Wi-Fi Firewall/VPN Router, a long name for a product, which fortunately has a lot to offer. As the very long name implies, the 2WG is a security appliance that offers the features of a broadband router, incorporates VPN, includes 802.11 A/B/G Wi-Fi, supports CDMA/HSDPA wireless broadband and sports a SPI Firewall. Basically, the 2WG is an all-in-one security appliance, suitable for a small business or branch office and can eliminate the need for wired broadband.

The 2WG offers several different deployment scenarios that help to make the device suitable for most any connectivity situation. First off, the unit can be configured using traditional wired connections, the unit sports a 10/100 Ethernet WAN connector and a 10/100 four port switch for LAN connections. Here, just like a traditional security appliance, a solution provider could hook up a wired LAN to the Internet using a wired WAN connection – much the same as the typical SoHo/SMB router. The big difference offered by the 2WG in that situation is the ability to configure a 3G PC-Card to work as a failover connection for the wired WAN. In other words, if the wired WAN goes down, Internet connectivity is preserved by the unit switching over to the CDMA/HSDPA 3G connection. That turns out to be a pretty good feature for sites that encounter frequent interruptions in service or must have connectivity at all times. Solution providers can go a step further in that scenario and configure the unit for load balancing, dividing traffic between the wired and wireless WAN connections.

While those scenarios may be interesting for most deployments, the 2WG really shows its magic when the wired connections are eliminated. For example, if there is a location that does not have wireless broadband available, especially a temporary location, such as a construction site, trade show booth or even a rural office – the 2WG can be configured to only use the 3G connection for broadband connectivity and service local PCs via 802.11 A/B/G Wi-Fi. In that environment, wired connections to the router (except of course, power) can be eliminated, creating a local LAN, with WAN capabilities instantly. The unit can also service multiple locations (trailers, offices) as long as they are within the range of the integrated Wi-Fi. Solution providers also have the option of installing high-gain Wi-Fi antennas to increase the range of the unit and perhaps cover a large outdoor area, such as a construction zone, car rental lot or truck stop. For locations with marginal 3G signal strength, solution providers may also be able to add an external CDMA/HSDPA antenna; that capability will be dictated by the 3G card that is used.

The wireless capabilities of the unit can be used to create some interesting scenarios. For example, with the use of a DC to AC power converter or appropriate power supply, the 2WG can be configured as a mobile hot spot to be used in a vehicle, such as a bus, limo or even a mobile command trailer.

While many of the features of the ZyWALL 2WG sound impressive, solution providers need to realize that the ZyXEL product isn’t the only one on the market with that feature set. SonicWall, DLink and others also offer 3G to Wi-Fi routers, and that should make a solution provider wonder why they should sell the ZyXEL product instead of something from a better known vendor.

For solution providers there are quite a few reasons to go with ZyXEL. First off, ZyXEL’s products are not found on retail shelves and that helps solution providers to maintain margins. Secondly, ZyXEL’s products are designed for business and not consumer environments. What’s more, ZyXEL’s products offer some features not found on competitors products and come in at a price point that is more affordable than the big names on the market. Those channel elements, when combined with the company’s excellent support, should make a solution provider think twice before passing over ZyXEL.