Wi-Fi vendors are starting to take a new approach to segmenting traffic in a Wi-fi network: putting multiple MAC addresses in each access point, so that traffic can be prioritised.

Colubris claimed the first virtual AP technology last week, but Symbol Technologies has been quietly doing this for a few months, as described in our review of the Symbol Wireless Switch System.

The point about having multiple MAC addresses in one access point is that it makes it easier to segment traffic so that, for instance, guests' browsing traffic is treated separately to corporate email traffic. It will also make it easier to implement classes of service for applications such as voice.

"It can be done by multiple SSIDs," said Gary Singh, Symbol's senior director of marketing, "but this does not work as Windows XP requires each SSID to be linked to a MAC address." More usually, he said, users segment traffic by putting in extra access points to cover the same area: Symbol's solution allows users to get away with fewer access points.

Colubris is aiming its equipment at public hotspots, where the Virtual AP allows one access point to be used by several service providers elegantly: each service's users connect to the MAC address assigned to their own provider.