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Hold fire on 802.11n, Cisco warns

No guarantee of compatibility

Although Cisco is one of the first to take part in the Wi-Fi Alliance's branding programme for draft 802.11n, the fast Wi-Fi standard in progress at the IEEE, it's not launching an 802.11n product at the Interop event in Las Vegas.

In fact, the company recommends caution on the new standard, with spokespeople pointing that the draft 802.11n is not widespread yet, and there isn't a certain guarantee of compatibility.

At the Interop event, Cisco unveiled location-sensing functions it has added to its wireless LAN, which will be allowed to scale up - but it has stopped short of launching faster 802.11n Wi-Fi access points.

The announcements were deliberately light on new technology, because what users actually want is solutions to problems in vertical markets - or at least that's the spin that Ben Gibson, Cisco's director of marketing for mobility, put on it.

"We are seeing customers moving away from saying 'we want wireless', to saying they need to solve some key business issues or challenges," he said. With two-thirds of the enterprise wireless LAN market, Cisco has to expand to new areas, he said, and that requires application-specific solutions.

Cisco is bundling services and products for four areas: an in-store mobile voice system for shops, a wireless shopping cart, a location-aware network for healthcare, and a first-mile wireless system for the energy industry, intended for oil fields.

To enable these, the company is launching new location services, as well as expanding its support for larger-scale wireless LANs - so its wireless control system (WCS) can see 20,000 access points in a single view. The wireless LAN will track devices as they moves between zones, and pass particular choke points. Telemetry has been added to Cisco's CCX wireless extensions, so the system can read sensor data including temperature, humidity and user-defined status information for assets like medical equipment.

The system will also encrypt management frames, a technology Cisco has been discussing for some months, to remove a weakness of Wi-Fi networks, a flaw to be dealt with by the IEEE 802.11w standard.

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