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Lancom targets UK with high-end Wi-Fi

ELSA heir wears its Made in Germany tag proudly

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German networking company Lancom Systems has opened up in the UK with the aim of recruiting up to 50 resellers by the end of the year, and has already signed up TechstoreUK as a distributor.

Lancom was founded five years ago out of the ruins of ELSA and specialises in developing high-end Wi-Fi, VoIP, and VPN systems, plus internet access gateways.

Somewhat unusually in these offshoring days, not only does it do its R&D in Germany, but it manufactures in Europe as well.

"Our founders bought the network routing and wireless LAN side of ELSA in 2002. Wireless is still probably the biggest part of Lancom," said UK country manager Ian Holt.

"Manufacturing and shipping are all outsourced, but assembly is still in Germany. We don't build huge volumes, so it's practicable to do it in Europe. It also gives us strong control over component supply. When you outsource to China you can get a more relaxed attitude to components, and then you can have problems down the line."

Holt said Lancom's pitch is that its network gear isn't the cheapest, but it's more secure, scalable, manageable, and better engineered than the others. Its customers include AOL, BMW, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Post, Mazda, and ThyssenKrupp.

"The brand is well established in Germany - we did €20m sales there last year, it's the majority of our business," he said. "The founders expect the company to make a profit every year, but it's privately financed, so it's run for the long term not the short term.

"It's not commodity prices, but you have to look at what you get in the box - we include a lot that otherwise you'd pay for. Our products come with free tools that are the equal of £1,000 SNMP management tools."

Lancom already has a few customers in the UK, including Cheltenham Ladies College, Holt noted.

"Cheltenham Ladies College has around 100 access points, the network is very manageable and secure - you can't do that with a commodity wireless box," he said.

"Our sell depends on the reseller's engineers finding it has functionality that exceeds most others but is easy to use. We can get a great deal out of one box, for example 802.11a/b/g, 802.11i, LEPS, 25 VPN tunnels, a 96Mbit/s router/firewall, SIP, a PBX, POTS - we have central site routers too, with up to 1,000 VPN tunnels."

However, although Lancom claims that its focus on development means it can do new technology faster than its rivals, it does not yet have 802.11n products.

Holt argued this was justified caution. "It is very important in wireless to be standards-based," he said. "The shape of it is clear, but 11n is not ratified yet and we don't feel it's appropriate to market it until it's ratified." ®

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