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Will Belden treat Trapeze right?

Can a cabling company make the most of a WLAN vendor?

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Structured cabling company Belden has bought Wi-Fi start-up Trapeze for $133 million. What does this mean for the other wireless LAN companies in the industry - and what will happen to Trapeze?

As we said in our blog last week, it's ironic for a wireless company to be brought by a wiring outfit, especially one which, like Trapeze, has been a genuine pioneer in the field. But in some ways, this may be a very sensible move.

For some years, wireless LAN vendors, including Trapeze, have been talking about replacing the access layer of the LAN with wireless. Some structured cabling companies have been playing about with the idea of using WLANs, but with, 802.11n finally starting to deliver on the promise, it might be more urgent for them to move.

"Belden's strategic vision is to provide the best signal transmission solutions to our customers regardless of technology," said John Stroup, chief executive of Belden in a statement. "We believe the acquisition of Trapeze Networks uniquely positions Belden to offer our enterprise customers tailored connectivity solutions that benefit from blending the strengths of copper, fibre and wireless technologies… we believe we are at an inflection point in enterprise wireless LAN expansion, a market that is already growing nearly 25 percent per year, and that wireless connectivity is no longer considered a luxury but is a customer expectation."

"What's really going on here is more evidence of the importance of unified networking, not a WLAN industry consolidation," says Craig Mathias in his blog. "The latter will happen eventually; such is always inevitable in IT. But the former is way more important."

Putting it more urgently, Roger Hockaday of Aruba suggested: "If the market is set to take off and flip wired onto its back in a year or two then maybe Belden is a visionary."

Likewise, Jim Vogt, chief executive of Trapeze, was upbeat, predicting no immediate change to the company's business: "Our valued customers will continue to receive unparalleled service, support, and products from Trapeze and will not notice any immediate changes. You will see no interruption in service or support because of the acquisition. The resources and expertise Trapeze gains through its relationship with Belden will help drive innovation within our wireless offerings, ultimately resulting in better solutions for our customers."

Belden claims the two companies are very complementary, and suggests it can give Cisco a run for its money. "Not only do we call on the same customers we call on the same people," said a senior Belden executives on its conference call. (I'm guessing it was Stroup, but there were no names in the offline information, and the introducti9ons were rushed at the start). These people would rather deal with one person - especially as wired and wireless integration is likely to get tighter in future - and wireless technology choice may drive the overall network structure.

Cisco doesn't have the same reach into copper, he said, so Belden can now sell Trapeze in ways that Cisco can't, the Belden people claimed.

The downside is that cabling normally complements switches but - with Trapeze, Belden will start to include them. That may cause conflicts at some level.


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