3Com Set To Ship Cable/DSL Gateway Tailored For SMBs

3Com this week plans to unveil a new secure cable and DSL gateway for small businesses and corporate offices.

With both VPN and firewall capabilities, the OfficeConnect cable/DSL secure gateway allows multiple users to share a single cable or DSL connection securely, said Robert Winch, director of product management for 3Com's small business group.

Slated to be available by the end of April, the gateway lists for about $350, making it affordable for small businesses and the SOHO market, Winch said.

With the gateway, small businesses can establish secure connections to suppliers, allowing multiple office employees to use the same VPN tunnel. Companies such as financial services firms with franchise offices are good candidates for the secure gateway, Winch said.

Scott Okun, owner of CTI Network Solutions, Fairfield, N.J., which is beta-testing the gateway, said he likes the product's flexibility.

"It gives small offices the ability to connect back to corporate headquarters inexpensively," he said. "But this is priced low enough to make it cost-effective to use with telecommuters, too."

Okun said CTI has several collection-agency clients using NBX installations, 3Com's IP telephony system. Those customers can take advantage of the IP telephony features by securely connecting home-based agents to both the company networks and phone systems for a lot less money than it would have cost before, he said.

Though a $350 product won't bring solution providers loads of profit, helping clients cost-effectively connect to small offices is likely to lead to more business, Okun said. "The money isn't in selling a $350 device," he said. "It's in all that you can do for the client once that small office is connected."

Despite a continued push into the small-business market, 3Com's revenue continues to decline. Last week, the company reported sales of $356 million for its third quarter ended March 1, down 10 percent from the prior fiscal quarter. The loss for the quarter was $236 million, or 67 cents per share.

"While there are some indications of an improving economy, these signs are less obvious within the technology sector and networking specifically," said Bruce Claflin, 3Com president and CEO. He added that the enterprise market has shown clear signs of bottoming out. "There is increasing interest from enterprise customers to leverage new technologies, but this, too, is against a backdrop of careful capital spending," he said.