Hewlett-Packard is bringing out powered versions of its Ethernet switches, with a price-per-powered-port of around £54 in the UK. The move, along with a forthcoming announcement from NetGear bears out predictions that power over Ethernet prices are set to tumble.

Although one obvious use is to power Wi-Fi access points, HP is marketing these primarily for voice over IP, where it works with partner Mitel. “They will be used for wireless access points, but we haven’t made a big point of it,” said HP ProCurve business manager John Wetherall. “We haven’t delivered power on Ethernet before.”

The switches may form part of future Wi-Fi moves from HP: “Our access points have power over Ethernet, and users could connect access points to a 700 series switch [HP’s name for the Vernier security gateway boxes it sells for Wi-Fi management] through one of these powered switches,” said Wetherall, “but they would lose some of the location services that the 700 series gives them.”

The ProCurve 2626 PWR and 2650 PWR are the 24-port and 48-port powered versions of two of HP’s best-sellers, and will cost £1422 and £2681 respectively. “They can allocate power dynamically to drive what is required,” said Wetherall. Each one has a 360W power supply, so the 2626 PWR can power all ports at 15.4W, while the 2650 can power all at an average of 7.5W. HP will also ship 1U-high power modules for its 5300 chassis switches in 2004.

The NetGear FSM7326P switch is selling in the US for cheaper than the HP2626 PWR switch ($1750 compared with $2599) but HP’s device – like virtually all HP’s switches – has a lifetime warranty with next-day replacement, said Wetherall. The two products lend support to claims by power-over-Ethernet leader PowerDsine, that by the end of 2004 powered Ethernet ports will be as cheap as non-powered ports are currently.

With earlier HP announcements of cheaper Gigabit switches (now down to £60 per port), it begins to look as if the standard switch in a year or two will do more than it does today.