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Affordable Japanese Networking Hardware
By Thiravudh Khoman

I was at Challenger SuperStore (Ploenchit Center) again today (hey, the food at the 6th floor food court is both good AND cheap!), and noticed some networking hardware manufactured by a Japanese company I've never heard of before. The fact that the company was Japanese struck me since networking hardware is the usual domain of U.S. and Taiwnese companies.

In my past two post-finance years, I've been buying low-cost networking hardware (LAN adapters and hubs, PCMCIA cards, modems, etc.) made by a Taiwanese company called Micronet (https://www.micronet.com.tw), and have found their products to be most useable. The fact that their software drivers are easily obtainable from their website makes them easy to support.

Anyway, Challenger was selling products from this Japanese company, Planex Communications Corporation (their Thai website is at https://www.planex.co.th), at a price that seemed incredibly cheap to me. What struck me wasn't the prices of their commodity products (e.g. LAN cable and LAN adapters - about 400 Baht for a 10Base-T card and 800 Baht for a Fast Ethernet card, both Windows and Linux compatible), but the prices of their Fast Ethernet switching hubs. These were selling for about 1,000 Baht/port. The last time I was in the market for a switching hub (admittedly, 4 years ago), the price was about 15-20,000 Baht/port for a Kalpana EtherSwitch, so the price drop floored me.

(Note: A switching hub is significantly different from a regular hub. Assume 5 computers are connected to a hub. If the hub is a regular 10Base-T hub, all 5 computers would share a total 10 megabit bandwidth. If, however, the hub were a 10Base-T SWITCHING hub, EACH computer would get its OWN 10 megabit bandwidth. This "math" holds true for Fast Ethernet as well, but only if all hubs and LAN adapters are of a Fast Ethernet variety.)

Given their superior performance, switching hubs naturally cost more than regular hubs. Planex sells a regular 8-port 10Base-T hub for 1,389 Baht, while an 8-port switching Fast Ethernet hub sells for 7,168 Baht (admittedly, we're comparing apples and oranges here). Their switching hubs come in 5-, 8- and 16-port configurations.

By the way, this is NOT an endorsement of the Planex products, which are supposed to hold the #1 share in the Japanese SOHO market. I'd love to try them, but I'm not in need of any such hardware at the moment. Still, if they perform as they're supposed to, their prices are a marvel to behold and I believe they're at least worth a look. Planex's Thai website actually lists the prices of their products online. Quite unusual.

Copyright © 2000, Thiravudh Khoman