Com21 Eyes Business

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With an eye toward the potentially lucrative small-office and multiuser enterprise markets, Com21 Inc. released its "DOXport 5020" office cable modem last week.

Business-class cable modems, also offered by Cisco Systems Inc., have generally not been big sellers. Analyst Michael Harris, president of Kinetic Strategies Inc., said Cisco sold just 10,000 to 11,000 router-class modems for business use in the second quarter. "It remains to be seen how large that segment will be," he added.

The Com21 device contains a built-in hardware stateful-inspection firewall-which maintains information about a user's online activities-as well as a four-port Ethernet hub and content filtering for virtual-private-network capabilities.

It uses Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and Network Address Translation to connect multiple computers through a single Internet-protocol address.

According to Com21 vice president of corporate marketing Lief Koepsel, the modem can function as a DHCP server and hand out 64 IP addresses.

The base model sells for $760, and a special-edition model with content filtering and VPN capability is $1,110.

Koepsel said the office modem is targeted toward telecommuters with cable-modem service, remotely connecting to corporate networks and seeking "a higher level of security" than standard residential modems.

"The [stateful] hardware firewall is considered the most secure firewall of its type," he added.

Other potential users include schools and libraries and branch offices that have cable-modem service, Koepsel said. He added that the product includes a browser-based software package to configure the number of users and to set firewall parameters.

Internet-over-cable provider ISP Channel has deployed 15 to 20 Com21 business-class modems in the field, according to John Stagl, director of business services for the SoftNet Systems Inc. subsidiary.

While ISP Channel offers business cable-modem services ranging from $99 to $499 per month, packages with leased business-class modems are offered for an additional $55 per month. A business modem lets "the computer that's across town work the same as one that's across the hall," Stagl said.

Although ISP Channel serves some small markets that are price-sensitive, Stagl said, the firewall modem "has been very well received." In particular, "I see them real popular with municipalities." Two customers include a fire department in Flagstaff, Ariz., and a school district in Kennebunk, Maine.

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