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Bay pitches wireless intranets

Will the entry of an established networking player give the wireless corporate market a boost?

Will the entry of an established networking player give the wireless corporate market a boost?

Bay Networks certainly hopes so. After plunking down $10 million in June for a start-up called Netwave Technologies, the company believes that it can feed wireless technology for local networks into its sales channels and reap rewards in a wide-open emerging market.

Noting a niche where networking stalwarts such as 3Com and Cisco Systems have not yet arrived, Bay executives insist that the world is ready for alternatives to wired Ethernet-based local networks such as those found in departments of corporate intranets.

But such systems don't come cheap. Companies must be willing to spend about $500 per modem and at least $1,499 per hardware hub for a wireless network that accommodates only 10 to 20 users per bridge.

Bay hopes to convince network planners who may see the benefits of simply installing a few wireless hubs, called the BayStack 600 line, rather than ripping out the walls and installing local wiring, in certain instances.

Here's how it works: A hub device about the size of a VHS tape connects to a corporate Ethernet-based network on one side and offers a wireless modem for multiple connections on the other side. This allows users--likely candidates are laptop junkies--to tap into the corporate LAN from a variety of locations on a campus without physically attaching to an Ethernet-based cord.

Bay executives said several enterprise corporate networks and 40 to 50 universities are currently testing the wireless technology.

"Bay has the credibility that's been needed in the wireless space," said Jerry Ulrich, general manager of the company's wireless LAN group and former head of Netwave.

What has made the wireless option potentially more palatable to interested parties is the recent ratification of standards in the areas of data transfer and security, among other necessities. "We're in the emerging phase of the market for the enterprise," noted Ulrich. Transmission rates currently top out at 2 megabits per second, according to the executive, with a 10-mbps standard coming soon.

Bay lists Lucent Technologies as a primary competitor in this arena, with smaller companies such as Proxim and BreezeCOM also in the mix.

Given the impending approval of Bay's merger with Canadian telecommunications equipment giant Northern Telecom, executives are also floating possibilities for integration with that company's expertise in voice technologies.

One scenario Ulrich mentioned would take cellular telephone transmissions from executives running to various locations on a corporate campus and route them through a wireless LAN infrastructure to save costs.

The new BayStack 600 line and accompanying modems are available now.