Meru Networks, a small Wi-Fi vendor, has claimed to have beaten behemoth Cisco to the Wi-Fi punch, by becoming the first supplier to announce the installation of an 802.11n-based Wi-Fi campus network in Europe.
802.11n is the latest evolution of Wi-Fi and it allows a theoretical downstream speed of 300Mbps, six times faster than the previous version 802.11g. But it is still only a draft standard and may not be finalised until 2009.
"If Cisco had delivered any 802.11n networks in Europe, we would have heard about it," said Bo Ericson, vice president, North and Eastern Europe, Meru Networks. "They are an excellent marketing company."
Meru's network is being built at Espergærde High School in Denmark, where 800 of the 1,000 pupils already use Wi-Fi. However, they are outgrowing the capacity of their 802.11g equipment.
Therefore the school will shortly migrate to an 802.11n network with around 30 of Meru's AP300 access points, although the school is currently waiting for them to be shipped. Site surveys are now being undertaken.
The school plans to use both Wi-Fi frequencies, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and it will add voice to the predominantly data-oriented network in due course, said Ericson.
"We believe it is critical to provide our students with the latest in technology to improve their overall educational experience," said Jens Per Nielsen, the school's principal. "Computers and wireless have long been part of instruction at Espergærde."
All the major enterprise wireless LAN companies have now launched 802.11n access points, although most are only slowly starting to deliver them, as it is not yet clear how quickly businesses will adopt the new equipment. Cisco's Aironet 1250 access point is available, and the other leading enterprise Wi-Fi players, Trapeze and Aruba, have also both announced 802.11n access points.
Consumers are moving quickly to 802.11n because of its greater range and reliability, owing to its use of MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology.
For businesses, however, there could be difficulties, because 802.11n access points may need more power than can be supplied by current power over Ethernet technology. Concerns have also been raised over interference issues between equipment based on 802.11n and earlier versions of Wi-Fi.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, a vendor body, began certification to the draft standard in the middle of this year, around two years before the final standard is expected. Until there is a final standard, there is no cast-iron guarantee of interoperability between different vendors' equipment.