Networking vendor 3Com is to introduce a 24-port Gigabit Ethernet switch that combines Power Over Ethernet technology and wireless network control.

The 3Com Unified Gigabit Wireless PoE Switch 24 costs US$2,750 and is designed for small and mid-size businesses, said Howard Rubin, marketing manager for the product.

Jason Houts, vice president of operations at MTS, a provider of wireless systems to hotels, said his company has been using one of the switches in production for nearly three weeks at its St. Louis headquarters.

MTS is evaluating whether to deploy the switch at hotel customer sites that have multiple wireless access points. "It's exciting that it might be used to manage dozens of APs in larger hotels remotely," Houts said.

He also said that the multi-featured switch will likely lower users' operating costs. Houts said the aggressive pricing of the switch should make it attractive to his hotel customers. "The [hospitality] market is not known for big IT budgets," he said.

The new switch from 3Com is also "nice to have as an alternative to Cisco," Houts said.

He noted that 3Com's financial woes and the appointment of a new CEO, Edgar Masri, have not adversely affected his view of the vendor. "To be honest, the politics behind the company are not as important as the quality of the products and the support," he said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group in Boston, said 3Com's overall technology, management and financial direction is about the same as it was six months ago, when he rated it "poor to fair." In August, 3Com reported a loss of $100 million on sales of $795 million for fiscal 2006. It was 3Com's fifth straight year of losses.

"The new CEO has some work to do," Kerravala said, "but they have strong products." Sales of the new switch can't be expected to return 3Com to financial success, he said, but it can help companies "create unified policies across wired and wireless environments."