Hewlett-Packard has launched a wireless access point that supports the 802.11g standard, offering speeds up to 56Mbit/s. The move underlines the way 802.11g is sidelining the older 802.11a standard, which offers similar speed but at a different radio frequency, according to analysts.

Like all 802.11g access points, HP’s Wireless Enterprise Access Point 420 also supports the current 11Mbit/s standard, 802.11b. However, unlike vendors such as Linksys, and D-Link, HP is not including a two-band radio to allow it to also handle the other high-speed IEEE Wi-Fi standard, 802.11a.

An older standard than 802.11g, but not yet established in the market, 802.11a offers a similar throughput to 802.11g, but moves to a higher frequency to avoid interference with other radio use such as 802.11b and Bluetooth.

“802.11g is going to be extremely important,” said analyst Tony Crabtree of Juniper Research. “You can upgrade existing systems, without any issues.” The price difference between 802.11g and 802.11b equipment is rapidly becoming negligible, so laptops will quickly be capable of the higher speeds, he said.

“Do you need 802.11a?” asked Crabtree. “I don’t think most people do. We don’t forecast 802.11a to be very large.” He dismissed the stories of interference with other systems as mostly “theoretical.”

Other analysts disagree, seeing 802.11a as the long term victor. “We are seeing significant shipments of 802.11g access points in both the enterprise and consumer segments,” said analyst Richard Webb of Infonetics. However, he believes: “b/g access points have a window of opportunity but in the longer term a/b/g r just a/g are likely to rule the day.”

HP’s rejection of 802.11a/b/g is presumably not on cost grounds alone, as the $469 US list price for the product puts it above most of the available a/b/g access points available – though admittedly the street price will be considerably lower.