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3Com offers Net gear under $500

3Com may force the hand of competitors with an introduction that lowers the price for ISDN routers for small sites.

3Com (COMS) may force the hand of competitors with an introduction next week that lowers the price for ISDN routers for small sites.

The company is targeting home workers, small remote offices, and Internet diehards with a new personal router box that can handle a leased ISDN (integrated services digital network) line and four PC connections in one piece of hardware. The box competes with low-end routing gear from the likes of Ascend Communications and Cisco Systems, though 3Com officials believe they have achieved a price break through with the new hardware.

Shipping at the end of this month, the new OfficeConnect LAN Modem combines an ISDN modem interface card and IP (Internet protocol) routing, with a four-port 10-mbps (megabits per second) Ethernet hub, two analog ports, and Web browser-based configuration utilities. The new box is intended for the hotly contested small office/home office (SOHO) market, with list price coming in at $499.

The new LAN Modem is intended to fill the breach between consumer modem products and low-end multiprotocol routers that can be difficult to configure, according to Jarek Chylinski, director of marketing for 3Com's remote access products group.

Through a series of software wizards, users can typically set up a box within a couple of minutes, 3Com officials said. The software automatically discovers the type of switch to which an ISDN line is connected and automatically handles network addressing.

3Com is so confident the box will be easy to for novice users to install that it is offering refunds if the LAN Modem cannot be set up within 15 minutes.

The 3Com introduction comes on the heels of a similar announcement by Bay Networks. However, that box--dubbed the Nautica 200--only offers one Ethernet connection for a $600 list price. The LAN Modem may cause others, such as Bay, to rethink their pricing structure, according to industry observers.