Faster WiFi equipment arriving next year, under the 802.11n standard, could be too much for office WLANs to handle, warns Trapeze, at the launch of a new version of its own system.

Current enterprise wireless LAN (WLAN) systems require all traffic originating on the wireless portion of the network to travel via the WLAN switch, says Trapeze's EMEA technical director, Michael Coci. Smart Mobile, the next version of Trapeze's system, changes this by allowing the switch to set up a forwarding path, and then retire from the conversation.

"Competitors like Aruba will not be able to handle the full speed of 802.11n," said Coci. "With up to 512 access points putting up to 200 Mbit/s of traffic through a central point, the encryption engine will fall down."

With other architectures, even traffic between two clients on the same access point must be sent to the switch and back. By contrast, Trapeze's new architecture will allow the traffic to be handled in the access point, with greater efficiency.

Trapeze's approach has won other support too. Carl Blume, director of strategic marketing for Colubris Networks endorsed the company's approach, while claiming precedence; "We believe Trapeze’s Smart Mobile announcement is significant recognition of the limitations inherent in first generation switches. The only way to migrate users forward to new generation applications is with an architecture that distributes intelligence to the network edge as Colubris has done with its optimised WLAN switch architecture," he said.

The new version, launched today, also includes elements of mesh, where dual radio access points, handling 802.11a and 802.11b/g, can connect to the network using one waveband, and handle clients with the other.

"They've revisited the old thin-fat access point argument, and put some weight on their access points," said analyst Richard Webb of Infonetics Research. "Current architectures place very heavy demands on the switch which can be expensive - so Trapeze has gone back to elements of the fat client architecture."

Thin clients were the answer to unmanageable armies of uncontrolled access points, with which companies attempted to put in wireless LANs before the introduction of the wireless LAN switch, which centralised control of the airwaves. Trapeze now believes the time has come to distribute a bit of that control again.

Trapeze claims that the new architecture, which will be delivered this month, will support real-time applications such as voice better than previous architectures, claiming that systems from Cisco and Aruba produce "high levels of latency and jitter." Trapeze's Smart Mobile lets voice calls be set up on a peer-to-peer basis, with traffic flowing form handset to handset, said Coci.

The new version will cost the same as Trapeze's current generation of products.