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February 27, 1994

WELLFLEET JOINS FAST ETHERNET ALLIANCE

By CBR Staff Writer

Billerica, Massachusetts-based Wellfleet Communications Inc has joined the Fast Ethernet Alliance, the 3Com Corp-headed group started last August to promote 100Base-T – 100Mbps Ethernet using the original Ethernet CSMA/CD protocol. The move represents a change of direction for Wellfleet, which signed up to AT&T Microelectronics’ and Hewlett-Packard’s rival 100Base-VG camp last March. At the time, Wellfleet said that it was committed to developing 100Base-VG products, and demonstrated no sign of interest in the 100Base-T initiative when it was launched. Now, however, Wellfleet is saying that to be a player it has to support both camps – largely because it feels that neither one will win outright in the market and that the chance of the two groups coming to an arrangement probably won’t happen; the company says it is now committed to product development on both standards. While Wellfleet says that its decision was not directly influenced by AT&T’s move to co-develop 100Base-T chips with 3Com, or by the IEEE 802 committee giving its thumbs-up to 100Base-T last November, it acknowledges that when the other camp began gaining speed it couldn’t favour one over the other. According to a spokesman, Wellfleet engineers still preferred 100Base-VG because of its better way of using bandwidth, but accepted that there was also a huge market for 100Base-T due to its use of existing Ethernet cable. The company has therefore conceded that these respective advantages cancelled each other out, and now believes that issues such as availability, price and user’s cable infrastructure will be users’ determinants when selecting which of the standards to opt for. Not that Wellfleet thinks the continuing existence of two rival factions is a good thing: By needing two different chip-sets, overall production of any one type will be halved, said the spokesman. This will mean fewer economies of scale and therefore higher end-user costs.

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