Netgear has launched a switch designed to bring wireless LANs to smaller businesses, supporting up to 500 users.

The Prosafe WFS709TP Smart Wireless Switch controls a wireless LAN consisting of up to 16 access points; three switches can be hooked together to support 48 APs. The system - which is based on OEM technology form an un-named third party - includes RF planning, and security features including rogue detection and intrusion protection.

"Small to medium business technology normally rolls downhill from the enterprise," said Peter Airs, Netgear's VAR channel manager for the UK. "But wireless could roll uphill."

Penetration of wireless LANs into bigger businesses has been slower than was expected, with only around 15 percent so far going further than hotspots in conference rooms. Small businesses have the potential to move faster with some new technologies.

The switch costs £1500, and can manage Netgear's existing Prosafe WG102 single-band and WAG102 dual-band access points, or new "thin" access points available in single and dual-band versions called WGL102 and WAGL102 (study those product numbers, there is a pattern). Access points cost around £80.

There's no 802.11n access points, but they’re in the pipeline, according to Airs.

Who is the OEM partner? We couldn't nail it down, but the technology sounds a lot like Trapeze.