Cisco has unveiled its first wireless local area network access point to offer both the 802.11a and 802.11b standards.
But while the unit goes on sale this month, in the UK it will only ship with 802.11b, as regulators have yet to certify 802.11a equipment for use.
According to Cisco, the new the Aironet 1200 access point can operate the two different bands simultaneously by including a slot that can be used for either standard.
A standard version ships with an 802.11b radio module, but there is an additional slot for an 802.11a radio. The modules can also be upgraded to 802.11g as equipment becomes available.
The appeal of supporting both standards now, according to Cisco, comes from providing a unit that includes an upgrade path for 802.11a as use of the technology becomes prevalent.
Even in the US Cisco has admitted that 802.11a is in its infancy. In the UK, it expects to start shipping certified 802.11a products by the end of the year.
"This is a response to the uncertainty about how 802.11b and 802.11a will co-exist in the marketplace," said Ron Seide, US product line manager at Cisco's wireless business unit.
In order to support both wireless standards the new unit operates simultaneously in both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequency bands.
The appeal of 802.11a is that it provides a complementary technology to sit alongside 802.11b deployments.
While the 802.11a specification supports data transfer speeds of up to 54Mbps, about five times the speed of 802.11b, it uses more power and has less range.
"The two technologies in one access point represent two logically separate access points, appealing to different individual clients, different hardware and different applications," said Seide.
While power users demanding high transfer rates will opt for 802.11a, less demanding users with limited bandwidth demand and more concern about power consumption, such as PDA users, will opt for 802.11b, Cisco said.
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