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3Com rides the Gigabit bus

3Com hopes to capitalize on its Ethernet roots next Monday, when it unveils its first gear based on the emerging Gigabit Ethernet standard.

Hoping to capitalize on its Ethernet roots, 3Com (COMS) will roll out a slew of gear on Monday based on the emerging Gigabit Ethernet standard, according to industry sources.

Gigabit Ethernet rollouts will continue throughout the first half of this year and beyond, dominated by a plethora of start-up firms who want to get their names out before the market is saturated with products.

3Com, one of the creators of Ethernet networking technology, may feel a responsibility to enter the market early to live up to its history as a pioneer in the area, according to industry observers.

3Com will introduce a new Gigabit Ethernet switch, two modules for existing Ethernet-based gear, an interface card for the company's ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) gear, and an interface card for PC servers.

3Com will also provide support for Gigabit Ethernet in its Fast IP internetworking software for layouts based on the Web's dominant communications protocol. Through the umbrella TranscendWare set of services, the gigabit-speed pipe will also be supported, providing levels of service enhancements to a network.

The new SuperStack II Switch 9000 SX includes eight switched Gigabit ports. A module for the popular SuperStack II 3000 10/100-mbps Ethernet model ties gigabit into an existing Ethernet-based network topology. Another module for the CoreBuilder 5000 ties Gigabit Ethernet into existing ATM or Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) networks.

The announcement is a milestone for the emerging gigabit standard, according to analysts, since none of the major networking players have yet to articulate a gigabit migration strategy that can match 3Com's. "They offer a lot of different ways to integrate Gigabit Ethernet into networks," according to an industry source.

The Gigabit Ethernet standard is heading for a vote by the Gigabit Ethernet Alliance this summer, with final approval from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers due in early 1998.

The SuperStack II Switch 9000 SX and the Gigabit Ethernet Module SX are priced at $19,995 and $2,995, respectively, and will ship in the third quarter. A CoreBuilder 7800 Gigabit Ethernet card that takes gigabit into ATM networks will cost $18,000 and will ship in the fourth quarter. The CoreBuilder 5000 Gigabit Ethernet module will be priced at $5,000 and will ship in the first quarter of next year.

A gigabit-speed PCI-based network interface card (NIC) will also ship in the third quarter of this year. 3Com's internetworking software modules for Gigabit Ethernet will be available at the company's Web site starting in the third quarter.

Start-up Prominet is also expected to introduce Gigabit Ethernet gear on Monday.