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What's to become of Nortel WLAN users?

An auction date for Nortel's Enterprise Solutions Business — which includes its wireless LANs — has been set for Sept. 11. After that point, what's to become of customers using Nortel-branded Wi-Fi equipment?

That depends in part on which auction bidder wins the enterprise goods, which represents about a quarter of bankrupt Nortel's overall business, according to the Dell'Oro Group. Nortel has resold Trapeze Networks 802.11a, b and g controllers and access points for several years under the Nortel brand and newer Trapeze 802.11n products under the Trapeze brand.

There doesn't appear to be all that many Nortel WLAN shops out there that need to worry: Infonetics Research places Trapeze 10th in WLAN market share at about 2% of the market, including both Trapeze- and Nortel-branded products.

Depending on who ends up with the Nortel WLAN customers and conditions of the signed deal, Trapeze may or may not wind up responsible for existing accounts. Nortel says, and Trapeze confirms, that the two companies have an investment protection clause in their OEM contract under which Trapeze would take on the support and service of Nortel's Trapeze installations should Nortel become unable to do so.

But Steve Asche, director of inside sales at Trapeze, waffles a little bit about what this binds Trapeze to, specifically.

“If someone acquires Nortel and picks up responsibility for those [Trapeze-manufactured] WLAN products, whether the investment protection terms of the original deal port over [to the new owner] depend on the agreement deal” Nortel signs with its buyer, he says. He adds, however, that Nortel customers generally have the option of “transitioning their support over to Trapeze support.”

In 2006 when Trapeze announced its Smart Mobile architecture, aimed at striking an efficient mix of distributed and centralized forwarding, Nortel began work on its own Wi-Fi architecture design, initially targeted to ship in late 2008. Nortel thought a better approach was to integrate WLAN traffic management intelligence with Nortel's own wired Ethernet switches to preserve existing virtual LAN configurations, unify wired and wireless network management and, in effect, eliminate an overlay layer for wireless.

A Nortel spokesman says that that product is still officially live and scheduled to ship at year-end. However, whether the new owner follows through with the new integrated Wi-Fi product line remains to be seen.

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