Wi-Fi switch vendor Colubris has promised a plug-and-play upgrade to give users fast 802.11n access points later this year.

The dual-band access points will support 802.11b/g with one (2.4GHz) radio and the draft 802.11n specification with the other (at 5GHz) - which Colubris plans to have certified as compliant by the Wi-Fi Alliance's branding program due to start in the next month or two.

"Dual radios are key for enterprises that want to move forward," said Carl Blume, director of product marketing at Colubris, arguing that 802.11g or b devices on the network can't drag the performance down,

The new access points fit into Colubris' existing network without any upgrades. This compares with 802.11n access points recently announced by Meru, and expected from other vendors, which will generally require an upgrade to the switch, said Blume.

While most wireless switches centralize all control - and often all traffic - to a Wi-Fi controller, Colubris' architecture, announced two years ago, and delivered last year, distributes some control to the access point, so the central switch will not be a bottleneck as faster Wi-Fi speeds arrive.

Colubris was able to start with this architecture as it arrived in the wireless switch market later than its rivals, having previously sold standalone access points for wireless hotspots. A more established switch vendor, Trapeze, has since followed suit with a more distributed wireless architecture.

Colubris' draft 802.11n access point will cost $999 in the US compared with $699 for its current dual-radio access points, which support the scarecely-ever used 802.11a standard on their 5GHz radio. As befits enterprise access points, they are plenum rated to allow them to be installed in ceiling spaces, and have power-over-Ethernet support.

802.11n will become a no-brainer in the enterprise once Centrino Pro laptops (launched last week) carrying the new standard become widespread. Network managers will find radio planning easy with dual-band access points. Both bands will need about the same spacing between access points, because the improved range performance of 802.11n will balance the lower penetration of 5GHz radio: "It will be a wash," said Blume.

"802.11n will be on trial in Q3 and Q4 of this year, and will become mainstream during the first half of 2008," said Blume.

Colubris' recewntly launched "local mesh" in which one radio channel handles backhaul, will work very well with the new access points, said Blume, with 802.11n handling the backhaul while clients are few and far between.