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New Wireless LAN Product Hits “Underserved” SME Market

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

With maybe ten competitors U4EA isn’t alone – but it maintains it’s the cheapest WLAN in town

Business gateway vendor U4EA has launched a new wireless LAN controller for smaller businesses, claiming the sector is “untapped”, despite the presence of many competitors.

The main benefits of the Fusion 300 box are that it is cheap and easy to deploy, offering “an enterprise-grade solution in an SMB package,” according to UK-based U4EA (whose name is pronounced “euphoria”, we’re sorry to say).

The Fusion box supports up to 250 users on 25 802.11b/g access points, with the controller costing $1195 and 802.11b/g access points costing $275, according to a U4EA announcement at the Wireless and Mobile 09 event in London today (UK pricing is not yet available, despite the product being launched by a UK company at a UK show).

The company claims the system is 19 percent cheaper than Ruckus, a vendor of wireless LANs for SMEs that majors on price, however, that price compares networks with 12 APs, and Ruckus’ sales pitch is partly based on claims that it needs fewer access points for the same coverage thanks to its beam-forming directional antennas.

U4EA also compared itself to enterprise vendors Cisco, Aruba and Meru, leaving out other SME WLAN vendors such as Extricom, Bluesocket and Aerohive, the last of which claims to be 75 percent cheaper than enterprise Wi-Fi brands because it has no wireless LAN controller, distributing the functions in software loaded on the access points: “A new wireless LAN controller?” said Adam Conway, vice president of product management at Aerohive, also at Wireless and Mobile 09. “Isn’t it time to get rid of wireless LAN controllers completely?”

Ironically enough, the U4EA system stems from an earlier attempt to do away with wireless LAN controllers. The system is based on technology from NextHop, a company which planned to offer a software-based alternative that network vendors could install on Ethernet switches; NextHop failed, was bought by U4EA in 2008 and – surprise! – the software has been turned into a wireless switch by U4EA.

“We haven’t left out any of the important WLAN security features, and we’re planning to partner with vendors like DiVitas, that offer appliances for fixed-mobile convergence,” said U4EA marketing manager Marcus Irwin-Brown. “We have an attractive business model with no extra licence fees when users add access points.”