The next round of Wi-Fi musical chairs is over. As predicted here, Nortel is re-selling Wi-Fi switches from Trapeze. The deal fixes Nortel's problem: Cisco's purchase of Airespace by replacing Airespace's products in the Canadian network giant's catalogue.

Nortel has stopped short of buying Wi-Fi switch start-up Trapeze, but the deal is expected to be a tight one, to avoid a repeat of the Airespace situation. It already goes further than the Airespace deal, as Nortel will embed Trapeze's technology in its switches, and co-developing voice and mobility features.

The deal is similar to the one in which Alcatel replaced Airespace switches with Aruba announced yesterday. Trapeze has come off best though, according to its director of technical marketing, Michael Coci: "Airespace did the overwhelming majority of its business through Nortel. This is all about volumes."

This stage of the Wi-Fi shuffle has put all PR managers on a fast spin cycle. Nortel managers are jolly about Trapeze, and strangely don't mention the company said the same things about Airespace one year ago: “Trapeze’s scalable architecture, strong support for voice and multimedia, sophisticated RingMaster lifecycle management tool suite, and the robustness and portability of its Mobility System Software were the drivers in making this relationship a reality,” says Atul Bhatnagar, vice president of enterprise networks at Nortel.

"We still sell Airespace," claimed Shirley O'Sullivan, EMEA business leader for security and wireless LAN, "and we'll continue as long as there is customer demand."

Both Trapeze and Aruba are spinning nicely as well, now pronouncing themselves happy with second-hand partners they were claiming three months ago that they didn't want. To its credit, Trapeze has been open about its ambitions to work with Nortel since the Airespace purchase (see Michael Coci's comments here ), but Aruba CEO Don LeBeau openly dismissed the idea of this kind of OEM deal in this interview. "A large OEM distribution is very, very wrong for a high end product. OEMs tend to be big box shifters," possibly this implies that Aruba is no longer a high end product.

Most relaxed is Airespace, which claims Aruba and Trapeze are just copycats: “Feels like an episode of American Idol. Maybe it's Airespace Idol,” said Allan Cohen, marketing vice president at Airespace. "It’s like Mick Jagger walking into a bar and hearing a lousy cover version of Wild Horses. We mastered OEM partnerships and executed 3 of them."

"Airespace invented the concept of 3rd party AP interoperability through LWAPP," he also boasts, and Airespace certainly talked about integrating third party access points in 2003, while Aruba and Trapeze only announced it last week, with Aruba's code posted on SourceForge. The copy-cat claim loses a bit, however, when you consider that Airespace never actually delivered any third party APs.

Now, the remaining question is, will 3Com be irritated that its partner is also in bed with Nortel? We reckon it will, but it's not got so much clout to complain about it. "The 3Com relationship is going strong," said Coci. "Nortel sells to large enterprises, and 3com sells more to SMEs."