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Startup touts wireless breakthrough

Startup company Vivato unveiled a wireless gigabit Ethernet switch running Linux for IEEE 802.11x which, it claimed, has a range measured in miles rather than feet.

The switch uses a thick panel filled with antenna elements that creates a "genius" or smart antenna, which focuses the radio frequency signal in a point-to-point design rather than broadcasting the signal, according to Vivato chief executive officer Ken Biba.

The range claimed for a single switch is 1.2 miles with a burst rate of 11Mbps and an average rate of 6Mbps. The switch talks to standard IEEE 802.11x clients.

Reducing the number of access points and centralising management and security appears to be a growing trend among WLAN providers as they try to lower the total cost of ownership.

"It's not as simple as putting up an AP [access point] and handing out a bunch of cards. It is about security and management, and we are seeing companies attack this from multiple angles," said Sara Kim, an analyst in the mobile/wireless technologies group at Yankee Group.

Last month, Symbol introduced its Mobius switch for Wi-Fi which reduces the cost of deployment and centralises management by using less costly access "ports" - as opposed to access points - and putting the intelligence in the switch.

In a Yankee Group survey, TCO was a leading barrier to adopting wireless, according to Kim.

Although the Symbol and Vivato solutions share similarities in integrating management and security at the switch, the key differentiator is the range of the Vivato switch which could dramatically reduce the number of access points and the number of wired connections needed.

"You can put this in the foyer and cover three or four floors and not have to worry about cabling," said Gary Berzack, chief executive officer of Tribeca Technologies.

Experts have claimed that although the typical range of a W-Fi access point is about 300ft, the spectrum is travelling much further. If an RF analyser was well over a mile away it would still pick up a weak signal. What the Vivato technology is doing is concentrating that signal.

However, Berzack believes the Vivato technology will be, in some cases, a complementary technology to the existing access point topology.

"If you have a campus and you put one of these switches in the parking lot you can shoot into the building and can cover even more than three or four floors. But if I need bandwidth with everybody doing streaming video at the desktop, you still need dense access points," said Berzak.

The Vivato gigabit Ethernet switch will ship in the next year.

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