3Com is set to launch Gigabit Ethernet switches for the small and medium-sized business market.

The switches include a 10-port desktop Gigabit Power over Ethernet (PoE) device and a line of wiring closet Gigabit Ethernet switches in various configurations. The products are intended to improve price/performance, security and ease of deployment for Gigabit Ethernet and PoE networking.

"3Com is pushing gigabit when a lot of the enterprise competitors have been pushing 10/100[Mbit/s]," said Steve Schuchart, principal analyst for enterprise network systems at Current Analysis. "I'm a little mystified as to why people are dealing with 10/100 at this point. You can hardly buy a PC without gigabit on it."

For desktop connectivity, the OfficeConnect Managed Gigabit PoE switch is a fan-less device sporting 10 1Gbit/s PoE ports for lower-density work-group, phone and access-point connectivity. PoE switches usually carry a minimum of 24 ports.

For the wiring closet, 3Com's Baseline Switch 2900 line of managed devices come in four configurations: 16-, 24- and 48-port 1Gbps Ethernet; and 24-port 1Gbit/s PoE. The rack-mountable switches are designed to interconnect desktop work-groups, such as those configured with the OfficeConnect line.

Both the OfficeConnect and 2900 PoE switches feature 3Com's AutoVoice capability for automatically detecting the MAC addresses of IP phones and connecting them to the appropriate VLAN.

A potential downside to the switches, however, is that 3Com is only offering a three-year hardware warranty on them, whereas such competitors as HP ProCurve and Extreme are offering lifetime warranties.

On the upside, 3Com is offering gigabit "awfully cheap," Schuchart said.

The OfficeConnect switch is priced at $495. The 16-port 2900 is even lower at $355. The 24- and 48-port non-PoE switches cost $495 and $995, respectively, while the 24-port PoE switch costs $1,195.