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Aruba slashes price for Wi-Fi deployment

New 802.11n access point could herald price war

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Businesses wary of the cost of high-speed Wi-Fi are being thrown an interesting hook by Aruba Networks. The company has launched a high-capacity wireless ‘n' access point (AP) for under £700.

Aruba claims this makes the new AP-105 802.11n AP the cheapest in its class without any obvious compromise in its feature set beyond lacking a second Gigabit Ethernet uplink, normally used for redundancy in other models.

The wall or ceiling-deployable AP-105 comes with a 2x2 MIMO design (that is two simultaneous input and output streams), integrated antenna and a rear mounted power-over-over-Ethernet data port for discreet office placement. It can be deployed in straight AP mode, or used in mesh networks with or without its add-on TPM module for secure encryption key management.

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Maximum power consumption is quoted as 12.5 watts, which is lower than the 16-20 watt range common for enterprise APs.

"If there is no reason to buy 802.11g then you might as well buy ‘n' now because that is what all laptops are shipping with," said Aruba's Roger Hockaday. He accepted that price - and to some extent the previously non-final state of 802.11n - had probably been behind the slow uptake of the technology. Products such as the AP-105 would change that balance, not least because wireless ‘n' could now best all versions of wired Ethernet up to Gigabit.

The Aruba's appeal probably comes down to price, Hockaday accepted. "Ultimately you are still limited by the standard and so in that sense it has become a mature technology."

Aruba's price argument viz its competitors does appear is a complex one. Aruba quotes the Cisco 1140 series APs as selling for around $1299 (approx £790), but they can also be found on the street for not much over £500 in single order volumes from other channels, lower than Aruba's quoted price and cheaper than the AP-105's official list price of £667.

A similar story applies for HP's Procurve MSM422, quoted as costing $999 (approx £710), but available for around £600 on a number of sites, also cheaper than Aruba's list.

Access points are not the real profit centre for vendors, however, which often use them to sell controller hardware the APs work with. Not coincidentally, Aruba announced the 600 series not that long ago.

According to Hockaday, Aruba's likely street price - which has yet to settle as the product is brand new - would still beat either Cisco or HP, and would also be cheaper once the controller is factored in. That suggests a best case street price of closer to £400 for the AP-105, which would quickly push out the established 802.11g access points which all currently sell in that price range.

Meanwhile, a big block - the 802.11n standard's ratification - was removed on 11 September when it became a full standard.



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