Nortel has launched an all-new family of Ethernet, wireless and voice/data products designed, the company claims, specifically for small and medium businesses (SMB).

The “SMB portfolio”includes a conventional 10/100 workgroup switch (the Business Ethernet Switch 100), a branch office or home office VPN router (the Business Secure Router 222), and a wireless router with VoIP capability (the Business Access Point 120), all designed to Nortel specs by a manufacturer in the Far East.

Available in August around the world in a rack-mounted configuration with optional Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), the line-up will be added to later in the year, with Gigabit support and stackable versions promised.

Nortel claims the advantage over arch-rivals 3Com and HP is its inclusion of a single management interface for anyone using any combination of its SMB products – unusual at this end of the market – and integration with the established Business Communication Manager VoIP system. The latter has also been upgraded.

“We’re looking for companies looking to go into VoIP,” said Nortel’s Amanda Giddens. “Typically they’ll be early adopters.”

Unlike some companies that interpret the term “SMB” or SME” to mean more or less anything that will fit their marketing strategy, Nortel appears to have a more straightforward “30-250” seat network in mind when selling the new products.

The channel is being plied with incentives to help the products fly in an already crowded market. Any partner who adopts and sells across the range of what Nortel terms “building blocks”, will be handed extra margin depending on how many of the three blocks they shift.

The 100 series switches cost from $445 to $1,800, the Business Access Point costs $249, while the Business Secure Router costs $349.