802.11n means more channel opportunities

With the 802.11n wireless networking standard ratified this fall, channel partners have an opportunity to increase their sales by helping customers refresh their wireless networking equipment, says an Info-Tech Research Group analyst.

802.11 is a set of standards that were first ratified 10 years ago, with the introduction of 802.11a and 802.11b said Mark Tauschek, lead analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech. These standards were designed to facilitate wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication.

Several years later, 802.11g was introduced to provide users with higher throughput, which meant faster wireless networking speeds, he explained.

Just last month, IEEE, the global non-profit professional organization that oversees the advancement of technology relating to electricity, approved an amendment to ratify 802.11n. Tauschek said with n, users get LAN-like speeds over a wireless network. N also provides users with more extensive coverage and range of at least 50 per cent more than its wireless networking standard predecessors.

What the new wireless networking standard means for channel partners, is they’ll have an increased opportunity to help customers upgrade from their existing wireless LAN environments, Tauschek said.

“In a lot of cases, those existing (business wireless) environments are at least five years old,” he said. “Partners can go in and advise their customers that their equipment is ready for an upgrade and 802.11n would give them better coverage, capacity and throughput.”

But still, Tauschek says the n wireless networking standard is not one that every company will migrate to.

“This is a matter of how old your existing equipment is and how you’re using your network,” Tauschek said. “If your network is being used extensively and there’s poor throughput or signal quality, that business would probably be in a position to upgrade to n.”

Tauschek also notes that 802.11n is “much more expensive” than 802.11g.

Zyxel Communications Inc., a Taiwan-based vendor of broadband access solutions, is one of the companies that have products that support the 802.11n wireless network. Tri Nguyen, manager of business networking products at Zyxel’s North American business, based in Anaheim, Calif., said the company’s NWA3166 11n router is a product that’s “easily installable and easy to manage,” all from a single interface.

“Partners have the option to install this as an upgrade for their customers moving to the n network,” Nguyen said. “We see n being the future in terms of technology, coverage and bandwidth.”

Zyxel has a base of about 300 active channel partners across North America, Jake Sailana, marketing manager at Zyxel’s North American operations said. The company has distribution partnerships with companies which include, Tech Data Corp. and Ingram Micro Inc.

The NWA3166 11n router is a complete business solution that offers users the flexibility of being able to grow and expand their network, Sailana said. The product is scalable for use in SMBs, all the way up to larger-sized businesses, he added.

“We want partners to start educating their customers on the benefits of wireless n because as more bandwidth is needed for use with Wi-Fi and multi-media, there will be a need for n real soon,” Sailana explained.

The company offers partners profit margins in the double digit range, in addition to support such as online training, discounts at distribution and a MDF (market development funds) program.

Tauschek categorizes Zyxel as a “niche player” in the market and notes that its market space sweet spot is in the SME (small to mid-size enterprise) space. Other vendors in the wireless networking SME space include Netgear Inc., D-Link Corp. and Linksys by Cisco.

“Over time, the cost to manufacture wireless networking solutions for the n network will drop because of the mass production of chipsets and also because of competition,” Tauschek said. “Partners can move customers to 802.11n as part of their (equipment) refresh cycles.”

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