Proxim offers DIY Wi-Fi hot spot

IT Forum: Want to let visitors to your office building or coffee shop use the Net? A new product bundles the software for a one-box solution

Proxim has launched an all-in-one product for public Wi-Fi hot spots and enterprise guest networks. The AP-2500 combines Proxim's AP-2000 Wi-Fi access point with the Nomadix gateway software, which is commonly used to control access to public wireless LANs (WLANs). The product was launched at Microsoft's IT Forum in Copenhagen.

The market for enterprise guest networks -- where an office runs a protected WLAN that allows visitors to access the Net -- will be a large market, that has so far been untapped, believes Proxim.

"By 2005, WLANs is predicted to be a $300m to $500m (£192m to £320m) market," said product marketing manager Rob Jansen of Proxim. "But this does not take enterprise visitor networks into consideration." Any company with Wi-Fi access, or a high proportion of users with notebooks, will want to offer access to visitors, he believes.

"The product is a hot spot in a box, intended for small networks of up to five nodes," said Jansen. Nomadix is one of the leading gateway companies, whose products are usually installed as a separate hardware unit alongside the access point, adding cost, he said. "The AP-2500 costs $1,095, or only $100 more than the version without the software," he said.

Large venues such as airports are likely to put in several access points and manage them centrally, but a small venue such as a coffee shop will want one box, said Jansen. The product includes authentication software, as well as a Web server.

When a visitor asks for a Web page, he is taken first to a portal page, and then to a log-on screen, which might take a password or account details. A company might use the portal screen to give information to the visitor, or promote itself.

No IT skill is required to set up a stand-alone hot spot, and the enterprise guest network only needs the IT manager to set up a VLAN through the corporate network, said Jansen.

The product is also aimed at service providers such as MegaBeam or BT's OpenZone, simplifying their installation, he said.

The product comes from Agere, which has now merged with Proxim. The company is repeating the wireless LAN it built in Barcelona for Microsoft's TechEd exhibition in July, this time with 30 access points and about 3,000 users.

Proxim leads the enterprise wireless LAN market with a 36 percent share in the first half of 2002 (including access points badged by HP) according to figures from Synergy Research. Cisco is second with 32 percent.

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