Proxim stays with applications requiring lower bandwidth

While much of the talk at competitors' booths at this winter's ComNet show in Washington, DC, centered on new 11-Mbit/sec wireless data offerings, Proxim (Sunnyvale, CA) was steering a different course

Wireless innovator announces alternatives to 11-Mbit/sec product lines.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

While much of the talk at competitors' booths at this winter's ComNet show in Washington, DC, centered on new 11-Mbit/sec wireless data offerings, Proxim (Sunnyvale, CA) was steering a different course.

"Our residential product line is called Symphony," says Jeff Orr, home-networking product manager. "It provides wireless Internet access. For the enterprise, we have RangeLAN2." The Symphony product line, which is also advertised for small offices and home offices, operates at 1.6 Mbits/sec and has a range of 150 ft, including penetration through walls and floors. Symphony uses 2.4-GHz spread-spectrum technology, which Proxim claims is secure and interference-free. A single telephone line and one Internet-service-provider (ISP) account are sufficient for simultaneous access by several users to drive peripherals such as printers and connect to the Internet.

The RangeLAN2 product line, which is interoperable with Symphony cordless networking products, consists of ISA and PC cards for portable computers, as well as access points and extension points to connect wireless devices to Ethernet or Token Ring local area networks. Once again, throughput is 1.6 Mbits/sec, and the technology is 2.4-GHz frequency-hopping, spread-spectrum.

The RangeLAN802 product line is compliant with the IEEE 802.11 standard, but it supports the earlier version of the standard, which specifies throughputs of 1 Mbit/sec and 2 Mbits/sec.

"Our RangeLAN2 product line," adds Orr, "is aimed at vertical enterprise markets such as healthcare, transportation, warehousing, education, retail, and financial services. These specific applications are often low-bandwidth."

Despite the fact that Proxim has not yet jumped on the 11-Mbit/sec bandwagon, the company has been aggressive in the wireless data marketplace. This winter, for instance, Proxim announced that RangeLAN2 and Symphony products would be offered by Comcast Commercial Internet Service to its subscribers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as part of a wireless usage trial. Comcast, according to the announcement, is focusing on small and medium-sized business customers, which often operate out of rented space or from locations in older buildings, where rewiring would be both difficult and expensive.

Proxim also acquired Wavespan Corp. (Mountain View, CA) in the fall, with the aim of adding complementary building-to-building products and technologies to its existing lines. At ComNet, Proxim launched the Stratum 100 building-to-building bridge, which can transport data, voice, and video between buildings up to 7 miles apart. The Stratum 100 operates at 103 Mbits/sec and supports Fast Ethernet or two T1 (1.554-Mbit/sec) lines.

What opportunities does Proxim see in the near future for the wireless data market? "We certainly see wireless options for laptops as a new and growing market," says Orr. "We also see ISPs getting into data and voice. If they can offer additional services over their infrastructure, they will increase revenues while lowering costs."

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