Motorola arrived late at the 802.11n party, but it hasn't missed the fun. We had thought the grand diva of Wi-Fi switches was past it, but our first glimpse at its product shows a company ready to strut its stuff in the Draft N fashion parade, and pick up a dance partners in the form of a user.

Symbol, the company Motorola acquired in 2006, was the first to sell a Wi-Fi switch, way back in 2002, but fashions are fickle. This week, when it launched 802.11n products - it was a late starter in this year's "in" Wi-Fi technology

That said, it's certainly not too late to be doing this. Rumours circulate that existing 802.11n products are either not as good as they should be, or are still in short supply. And, according to analysts at Dell'Oro Group, the new Wi-Fi standard is actually causing such uncertainty that it is partially responsible for a temporary stalling in the Wi-Fi market.

What's on offer?

There are some distinctive features to Motorola's 802.11n products. Firstly, the AP7131 is a three-radio AP. Now, that's been done before in 802.11abg access points (for instance by Colubris, but it's the first time for 802.11n, as far as I know.

As you can see from the picture, it's a spiky little critter. With MIMO's multiple channels, it has six antennas. All three radios can be on 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and all can use MIMO, with two antennas each. Motorola expects two radios will be used for data (either for access or for a mesh backbone), while the other radio acts as a monitor/probe.

It's backed by a wireless switch, the RFS6000 which has enough capacity for up to 48 n access points, and up to 2,000 users.

Using wireless for a mesh, and making it part of the backbone is going to happen more often, to save wiring costs and avoid upgrading the wireless network, says Kevin Goulet, director of product management in Motorola's enterprise mobility business. It also makes it resilient because these APs can automatically set up an alternative route to the backbone amongst themselves, if one gets cut off - that's an application of the Adaptive AP the company launched last month.

motorola ap

Another interesting feature - the switch has a PCI express expansion slot. You can put a 3G data card in there, and have a back-up connection for your WLAN switch if the WAN link goes down. In future, this could also be used for a WiMax connection. Another PCI slot could accommodate an IP PBX, according to Motorola.