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Symbol's New Switch to Take Wi-NG

Last week at the Mobile Business Expo (MBX) in Chicago, Symbol Technologies unveiled the latest radio frequency (RF) switch in its Wi-NG series. The new RFS7000 will be the first from the company to control 256 802.11a/b/g access points per switch, and supports clusters of 12 18 switches to improve performance and provide redundancy if a unit goes down. The previous model, the 5800 5100, stopped at control of 48 APs. Plus, the new switch won't stop with Wi-Fi -- it also extends to RFID and other RF technologies. [Corrected 11/10/06.]

Chris McGugan, senior director of Symbol’s wireless infrastructure division, says the company has a strong presence in retail and the supply chain, but this unit will help them target campus, manufacturing and healthcare deployments. "This opens up new markets for us outside our core leadership position," he says.

"RFS7000 will support Layer 3 access points, but is also adopting our 'thin' APs over Layer 2," McGugan says. "But this product is adopting them over Layer 3 and providing Layer 3 mobility." He says the roaming users can manage at L3 won't require an external server like a lot of the competition, which is necessary to provide session persistence: "We provide that locally at the wireless switch. So it's got connectivity, mobility, and the integration platform customers are looking for."

What's more, this switch will be prepared for the emergence of 802.11n, as it has been designed for the horsepower and bandwidth the future (and as yet unratified) standard will deliver. Once the Wi-Fi Alliance is ready to support and test the Draft-N — likely after it reaches draft 2.0 next year — Symbol plans to be ready. "We're working on our 11n portfolio; that's why we have that support in this switch," McGugan says. Up to 50 11n APs will run off a single RFS7000. Expect to see full-duplex Gigabit Ethernet interfaces on the RFS7000 to prevent bandwidth bottlenecks. However, there won't be any new thin APs announced for a while.

There' will also be a focus on Quality of Service for video and voice, with full support for WMM, SIP and VoIP. "We've done work with DeVitas Networks — they help us hand off calls from wired to wireless," says McGugan.

The RFS7000 won't ship until 2007, but is being announced at the MBX due to their overlap in focus, as the switch will support not just Wi-Fi but also RFID asset tracking.

"Part of the architecture for Wi-NG is taking the disparate technologies and making them manageable," says McGugan. "We haven't formally announced WiMax and ultrawideband support, but we plan announcements coming up in early Q1 to speak to WiMax."

And what of the potential buyout of Symbol by Motorola that's in the works? McGugan didn't want to comment directly, as it's still in discussions, but did say, "I don't see any major hurdles or issues with integration. Wireless is core for both companies, and so is overall mobility."

Pricing for the 128-port license on the RFS7000 is $18,000; 256-port is $24,000; and it should ship in January 2007.