Zyxel has produced an office wireless LAN system for small-to-medium businesses that will use "blanket" WLAN technology from Extricom instead of traditional switches.

Wireless LANs have proven popular in small offices that can be covered by a single access point. Larger sites need multiple access points, creating problems of coverage and handover between the two. This has usually required the introduction of centralised switches. But Extricom claims to remove both problems by using the same wireless channels on all its access points, creating a "blanket" in which client devices do not need to roam between access points, and there is no need for cell planning.

"It's a great endorsement," said David Confalonieri, vice president of marketing at Extricom. "We now have a partner with fourteen years' experience in this arena." Extricom has won awards for its architecture, which it claims is better for voice and other real-time and mobile applications, but has not received high-profile endorsement or appeared in published tests.

The idea of blanket WLANs has begun to register on the radar of more traditional WLAN vendors such as Aruba, which recently announced a roadmap to deliver voice without going to blankets, and devoted some time to dismissing the blanket approach, claiming it will lead to more expensive proprietary access points which cannot track standards.

"We use the same standard Atheros-based access points as everyone else," said Confalioneri. "We will build to any standard." He also said that the blanket approach could be married to zones where traditional access points are used, so the architecture could be blended with existing set-ups. He suggested Aruba's criticisms are probably more directed at Meru - a company which put adjacent APs on the same channel a couple of years before Extricom.

Zyxel cited ease of installation as a key feature in the SMB market. "Customers are telling us that the industry has missed an important point," said Steve Northedge, Extricom's newly appointed European VP. "It has under-estimated how complex design and deployment can be."

"Extricom's highly-differentiated technology strengthens Zyxel's WLAN portfolio offering for the SMB space," said Chinru Lin, assistant vice-president for WLAN at Zyxel.