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Cisco launches draft Wi-Fi kit

Networking-gear company hopes the IEEE's final specification for 802.11n will be close to that of Cisco's high-speed Wi-Fi access point.

Cisco Systems has unveiled what it claims is the first access point certified for 802.11n.

The Aironet 1250 series access point is the only commercially available product to have been part of the Wi-Fi Alliance's testbed of Draft 2.0 products. The Wi-Fi Alliance embarked on an early "certification" of the draft standard in June because suppliers were becoming impatient with delays in getting the standard properly certified by the Institute of Electrial and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE--a process now scheduled to be completed next year at the earliest.

Some other manufacturers, notably Motorola, have decided to hold off on the production of business-grade 802.11n equipment until the IEEE has given its official approval. Even Frank Hanzlik, the former head of the Wi-Fi Alliance, claimed that the draft certification was primarily aimed at satisfying the consumer sector.

Richard Moir, a Cisco spokesperson, said on Wednesday that there was "85 percent agreement within the Wi-Fi Alliance" regarding the second draft of the 802.11n specification. "Even though this is Draft 2.0, what we're hoping is that, bar a few software changes, (it will be the same as) the final release next year. Customers will have already made an investment."

If the final specification for 802.11n did require a change in the hardware, upgrading the Cisco access point would be "a simple matter of popping out one radio card and putting in another," Moir said, adding that a "fair" upgrade cost might be incurred, if necessary.

The 802.11n standard is seen by many as a huge advance in Wi-Fi technology due to its increased reliability and predictability. Cisco's new access point will bring some of that improved functionality to 802.11b and 802.11g clients due to its backward-compatibility, Moir claimed.

Cisco also announced other 802.11n products on Tuesday, including the 48Gbps Catalyst 6500-based wireless-area-network controller system, and wired and wireless services monitored and managed by Cisco's Unified Wireless Network Software Release 4.2.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.