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With 3Com access point, one size fits all

The vendor's new access point is designed for small to large companies, a sign of 3Com's persistent effort to court enterprises.

In an effort to court more enterprise customers and appease its base of small and medium-sized businesses, 3Com Corp. this week released a wireless access point with features friendly to small and large companies alike.

The Marlborough, Mass.-based vendor said its OfficeConnect Wireless 108 Mbps 802.11g PoE Access Point is intended to provide smaller companies with enterprise-caliber features, most notably power over Ethernet (PoE) support, which eliminates the need for an electrical plug at the AP's location.

The new AP, about the size of two decks of cards, supports up to 64 users, and is compatible with wireless LAN security protocols, such as 802.1x, AES and WPA. It achieves speeds of up to 108 Mbps using a technique called SuperG, which combines two 54 Mbps channels.

According to 3Com product manager Alan Miano, no other $199 AP on the market allows customers to enable up to four service set identifiers and four virtual LANs for classifying and securing different sets of users, in order to provide rogue AP detection and PoE support on every port.

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The company is aiming to lure smaller companies that can't afford to keep redundant equipment on hand by offering a three-year warranty that guarantees an overnight replacement in the event of a product failure, at no cost to the customer.

Aaron Vance, senior analyst with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Synergy Research Group Inc., said this release signifies 3Com's desire to move up the value chain. While the device is easy for networking pros at smaller companies to set up and manage, the price point and features also make it attractive to enterprises.

3Com has been endeavoring to reclaim market share among large companies since its well publicized return to the market two years ago. It abandoned the enterprise market in the late 1990s, a move that industry observers said burned many bridges in the networking world.

"This is an upscale device when you compare it to the likes of DLink or Linksys, although at the same time those companies are trying to move up the value chain as well," Vance said. "At the same time, 3Com is better positioned because it has a legacy of serving enterprise customers."

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