A Close Look At HP's Ramped Up Access Points

HP Vs. Cisco Access Points

Hewlett-Packard this week raised the bar on WiFi communication with the Mobile Access Solution series of dual-radio wireless Ethernet access points, two of which generate an industry-first three data streams per radio and can connect as many as 15 high-speed simultaneous wireless sessions.

The entry-level E-MSM430 lists for $699, and will compete directly with the Aruba AP-105 and Cisco Aironet 1042 access points. The high-end E-MSM460 and E-MSM466 offer as much as 900 MBps total theoretical throughput potential, and list for $999. The 460 and its three built-in antennas can work on 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequencies simultaneously. The 466 uses external antennas and can handle simultaneous 5-GHz connections.

The E Is For Easy

Available now, HP's E-series Mobile Access Solution devices use Power over Ethernet, are 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi certified, and can work autonomously or with existing HP controllers and management tools. Layer 3 roaming enables mobile users to move seamlessly between subnets, and a guest management feature can be set up to provide Internet-only access.

Mere minutes after opening the box, the CRN Test Center was able to point a browser to the E-MSM460's default IP address, where a well-organized series of configuration tabs was waiting. After a few minutes more, testers had reset its IP address and configured the device as a network bridge.

Virtual Community For Wireless Service

If multiple SSIDs are required or desired, HP's Mobile Access Solution lets IT administrators implement them on one or both radios easily through Virtual Service Communities. This offers control over the number of clients allowed per radio, quality of service, minimum/maximum data rates, security and authentication. This might be useful, for example, for reserving bandwidth for specific applications such as VoIP or video conferencing.

What's The Data Rate, Kenny?

In our tests of the high-end E-MSM460, the dual MIMO (multi-in, multi-out) three-stream radios delivered communication speeds of up to 450 MBps in tests within 75 feet of the access point. But numerous obstacles and sources of interference caused performance to drop sharply as distance approached 150 feet.

The test laptop was equipped with an Intel 5300 AGN WiFi chip, which operates in both the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands and can transmit up to 450 MBps over three data streams (a 6300 would have worked too). Performance was measured using the 460's own data rate matrix, which is among the pages in its HTML-based management interface.

Built-In Diagnostic Tools

When things are going wrong on an autonomous device, it's sometimes helpful to have diagnostics tools right on the access point itself. For these occasions, the Mobile Access Solution stores logs for the system, remote connections and events, and provides tools for network trace, performance measurement and ping.

The HP Mobile Access Solution is designed for deployments of between 200 and 2,000 devices, and provides more, faster connections than competitors in the space. Cisco declined our invitation to send a unit for comparison testing.

The CRN Test Center recommends the HP Mobile Access Solution for its increased connection capacity, faster throughput and its simple and flexible administration. Although they're just being announced this week, the HP's Mobile Access Solution devices have been in the reseller channel since Feb. 1. There's much more information in the full review.