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Cisco Systems revamps wireless strategy

The networking giant is giving its recently acquired Aironet Wireless Communications a makeover by repackaging and updating the high-speed wireless networking kits.

Cisco Systems is giving its recently acquired wireless technology a makeover.

A week after completing its purchase of Aironet Wireless Communications, Cisco today said it will repackage and update Aironet's family of high-speed wireless networking kits with new features.

Cisco is the latest player to enter the emerging wireless networking market, where it hopes to give businesses, consumers, and even travelers at airports and hotels a wireless connection from their laptop computers to the Internet and their corporate network.

The networking giant joins Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Proxim Technologies, Cabletron Systems and others in a nascent market that is expected to jump from $771 million in 1999 to $2.2 billion in 2004, according to market researcher Cahners In-Stat Group.

Cisco today said it will ship new wireless networking kits for businesses at the end of this month. Several quarters from now, the company plans to ship home-networking kits that will let consumers have a wireless link to their PCs and printers, so they can share files and a single Internet connection.

Cisco's wireless products for businesses--called the Cisco Aironet 340 Series--include notebook PC cards that have radio transmitters and receivers built in, and a piece of hardware affixed to ceilings or walls that links the computers to an Internet connection.

The piece of hardware, called an "access point," links the wireless network to the existing wired network in an office. Its access range is between 100 to 200 feet.

The kit includes new security and roaming features. If people using laptops walk out of range of one access point, they don't lose their Internet access, because another access point picks up the connection, said Mike Francini, a Cisco marketing director.

Cisco's wireless products support an industry standard called 802.11B, which runs at 11 megabits-per-second (mbps). The technology will be compatible with other networking firms' products that support the standard, including Cabletron, Lucent, 3Com and Nokia.