New ZyXEL 802.11n Access Point

Networking infrastructure provider ZyXEL Communications, which has its U.S. headquarters in Anaheim, Calif., recently announced its new ZyXEL 802.11n access point (AP), the NWA3166. The unit is aimed at medium-size enterprises and vertical markets, such as hospitality, government offices, and educational institutions.

The NWA3166 is unusual in a number of ways. First of all, it has three personalities or network roles: It can function as a standalone AP; it can be managed by a centralized network controller; or it can actually be a network controller, managing as many as 24 other APs.

Communication between controller and managed APs is protected from hackers in an encrypted “secure tunnel,” and secure 802.1x user authentication is facilitated by a built-in PEAP server. (PEAP is one of a number of protocols used to transport secure authentication information.)

All of this makes for tight security and great flexibility in deployment, according to the company, potentially lowering purchasers’ total cost of ownership.

More important from the VoFi (voice over Wi-Fi or voice over wireless LAN) point of view are the inherent design of 802.11n and specific design features of the NWA3166.

First, 802.11n uses MIMO (Multiple Input/Multiple Output) antenna design to achieve data throughputs of up to 300Mbps—roughly 30 times as fast as 802.11b, the first popular Wi-Fi technology and three times the speed of Fast Ethernet. Not only does this provide plenty of bandwidth for both voice and data traffic, MIMO uses signal reflections to increase coverage range and eliminate RF dead spots—two common hurdles to high-quality VoFi service.

But wait: There’s more. ZyXEL has built in VLAN functionality, so each NWA5166 can function as multiple APs, each with its own traffic type and ESSID (Extended Service Set ID). The device comes with pre-set SSIDs for high-priority voice traffic, data traffic, and guest access, for example. Moreover, ZyXEL’s Auto Traffic Classifier feature ensures quality of service for time-sensitive applications, such as voice.

The ZyXEL NWA5166 802.11n access point is available now at an MSRP of just under $400.

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