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It's rare to see a technology that's been ostensibly pass by rise from the death, but 802.11a has some life in it yet: I've always been interested in 802.11a because, despite its lower signal propagation potential up in the 5 GHz band, it has had many more channels available for wireless networking from its first days, with more to come as more 5 GHz band is made fully available for unlicensed use. Because enterprises are more likely to have collections of heavy users, a dense infrastructure is more likely to be needed, making the shorter potential range of 802.11a less of an issue.
Thus it's a surprise to see Linksys introduce dual-band 802.11a/g gateways intended for the home market. But they see the future of home entertainment including streaming media that uses 802.11a--in line with Sony's early devices.
The 802.11a/g (Wireless A+G) equipment will ship in October at pretty low list prices: $89 for a PC or PCI adapter; $99 for a USB adapter; and $109 for a gateway/router.
Update: Tim Higgins of Tom's Networking wrote in to note that Linksys has been selling A+G access points since April 2003--he wonders whether this is just a promotional re-launch instead of new product. I have a query into Linksys asking if there is any difference with these "new" devices.
Meru Networks introduced a new access point yesterday that it says supports both 802.11g and 802.11b clients at their maximum speeds: Typically, in a mixed environment, an 802.11b client will cause an 802.11g client to slow down considerably.
The Meru AP virtually separates 802.11g and 802.11b traffic on a per packet basis. Because the packets don't see each other, the 802.11g traffic doesn't switch to a backward compatibility mode, which would require it to communicate with the AP in a way that creates overhead that typically slows down traffic in a mixed environment, said Sarah Kim, senior marketing manager for Meru. Because it is waiting for a patent, Meru is reluctant to disclose more about how the AP works, she said.
Unstrung reports some more details on how the APs work. The APs don't give priority to 802.11g or 802.11b clients but they use what Meru calls "fairness algorithms" that deal with channel allocation in a mixed environment, preventing 802.11g and 802.11b clients from transmitting at the same time.
Chipmaker Engim avoids the problems that typically occur in mixed environments by separating the traffic onto different channels. But Meru is using a single channel, Kim said.
Update: Jim Thompson speculates on possible underlying technologies for Meru's approach and the potential difficulties with those alternatives.
Microsoft shipping its 802.11g USB 2.0 adapter: For many machines, this adapter is the best approach, even though its $69 price tag far exceeds similar PC Cards. The USB 2.0 adapter has an external antenna and can be swapped among machines, and for computers without easily accessible innards or occupied slots, it's a simple solution. The 2.0 speed allows full 802.11g performance. The adapter handles WPA and 802.1X authentication.
BusinessWeek columnist notes that Apple's aggressive Wi-Fi promotion has brought them 20 percent global 802.11g marketshare and huge margins: Alex Salkever points out that Apple earned nearly $150 million from 802.11g in 2003 and talks about how Apple's managed to keep its premium margins. With increasing ease and cheaper alternatives ($75 for an equivalent Linksys WRT54G versus $200 to $250 for the Apple unit), Salkever predicts eroding markets that will force Apple to offer more features for fewer dollars. (Apple's 802.11b revenue was likely just a few million due to the sale of leftover original base station and the continuing sale of AirPort Cards.)
Salkever is using In-Stat/MDR numbers which shows Apple at 20 percent of worldwide unit volumes for 802.11g, which is $150 million in sales, above Linksys. Numbers reported by News.com from Synergy Research don't show Apple in the top five for the overall 802.11 sales (which includes 802.11a, b, and g), and show Linksys revenue at $450 million. Given the growth rate of 802.11g, I'm sure Apple will still stay up in the pack as the market shifts.
Atheros integrates 802.11g into a single CMOS chip, shipping 2nd quarter: The company is already sampling its AR5005G chipset, which comprises a single chip containing the Media Access Controller (the part that handles digital network interaction), the baseband processor (the part that handles converting analog to digital and the opposite), and the 2.4 GHz radio.
The company claims the same performance characteristics as their multi-chip 802.11g solution, including improvements in range. They also say that their WPA and 802.11i encryption support can be used without a reduction in throughput. The chip also features adaptive power use that selectively powers parts of the chip as needed.
This 802.11g design is another step in "Wi-Fi everywhere," in which all business and consumer electronics include Wi-Fi as a default fact, not an add-on at extra cost or only found in special models. We'll be talking to the company later today; watch for another report in the afternoon.
Intel releases its 802.11g Centrino module: The fully standards complaint, Wi-Fi certified 802.11g (and thus backwards compatible to 802.11b) mini-PCI module sells for $25 in quantities of 10,000 or more, according to the press release, and will appear in upcoming revisions to laptops from major makers. It supports WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access); current Centrino B adapters only support WPA for manufacturers who have integrated updated drivers.
What I was told last year during the Intel launch was that businesses of a certain scale work on a three-year purchasing cycle. Dell offered their own Broadcom-based 802.11g adapter to remain competitive because companies that had decided to go with 802.11g during 2003 wouldn't be coming back to the trough to buy more machines until 2006, and Dell would have left that business on the table.
Intel is finally able to belly up to the bar, but they really did leave a market moment open for Broadcom and others. Companies that have standardized on Broadcom's solution, even indirectly via Dell or others, won't now switch in their 2004 cycle for new machines to Intel's module because that would mean that they would have heterogenous hardware to support.
The flip side is that many companies waited on 802.11g: the enterprise versions of G access points didn't start shipping until long after the first consumer wave, and thus there was no benefit to having G.
Broadcom introduced an 802.11g chip at CES that promises to burst up to 125 Mbps: Buffalo Technology also introduced the first product to use the chip, the AirStation Router-g.
Broadcom said it achieved the performance gain with technology that closes the timing gap between data packets. The chips use just one channel to transmit. Broadcom says the chips are compatible with standard 802.11g gear and won't cause service degradation on nearby networks.
Broadcom is behind many of its competitors that have already introduced higher speed chips. Atheros offers a chip that can burst to 108 Mbps used by Netgear and D-Link. That gear, which employs several methods to achieve the higher throughput including channel bonding, degrades the performance of nearby Broadcom networks. It doesn't have negative affects on all nearby networks, though.
Some writers at the Dallas Morning News tried out a couple of 802.11g products and ran into a lot of trouble: This story gives a nice glimpse into the experience of a couple of guys without tons of technical experience trying to set up a network. They first noticed incompatabilities between products that were based on the draft standard and those issued after the final standard. They also struggled with implementing WEP and WPA. In fact, they couldn't implement either when installing D-Link gear. They also couldn't implement D-Link's XtremeG upgrade that boosts speed to 108 Mbps.
The Toshiba blue screen of death problem they report could have come from installing the Microsoft Windows XP WPA update on a Toshiba Centrino model. Last time we checked, the Toshiba Centrino wasn't certified to use that update; Intel long ago (May) released a compatibility update to manufacturers for WPA, but each Centrino vendor has to release it separately as part of their driver update package.
Cisco introduced its Aironet dual- and single-radio 802.11g APs: Existing Aironet users can get 802.11g radio upgrades. The new APs have WPA and also AES, though Cisco is setting the AES off until 802.11i is passed.
The adapter uses USB 2.0: The original USB standard only runs at 12 Mbps so it would be a bottleneck for 802.11g. But the Buffalo adapter relies on USB 2.0, which runs at 480 Mbps.
The company makes some announcements at its developers' forum: This is a pretty confusing article but seems to say that Intel plans to release its Sonoma mobile platform in the second half of next year. Sonoma will include 802.11a/b/g, a new Pentium M processor and a new chipset.
It's not that Intel doesn't want to send out a clear message, but it looks as though they are simultaneously fighting a rearguard action against upstarts like Broadcom who have seized some of the laptop mindshare among manufacturers, while still promoting their vision of an integrated wireless future.
It's called "Wireless-G": SmallNetBuilder reports that Microsoft has officially launched its 802.11g gear, acknowledging that Broadcom is its partner. Chipsets from Atheros, however, are behind the Xbox wireless adapter.
U.S. Robotics is selling its 802.11g gear in some Walmarts: It's a sign that Wi-Fi is truly going mainstream when you see press releases of this sort.
Atheros has new 802.11a/g chipsets that extend range and reduce power consumption of WLAN devices: The new chips will also let users remotely raise an alert on the device if it's stolen, even if the device is powered off.
Atheros says the new chips improve power consumption by 60 percent over 802.11b products. Some of that benefit happens because the chips use about 95 percent less power in idle mode than Centrino’s 802.11b products.
The chips also employ a new kind of signal processing architecture that Atheros says can double the range of Wi-Fi. The chips will allow a single access point to cover multi-story brick homes. Wireless Internet service providers can extend coverage to a kilometer range.
Broadcom started shipping new 802.11g and 802.11a/g chips that it says consume less battery life on notebooks then Centrino chips: A notebook can last 20 minutes longer with its modules, says Broadcom. The product will help Broadcom cement its relationship with laptop makers who are using its gear as a built-to-order option (Dell) or as a default (Emachines) instead of the Centrino module.
SmallNetBuilder says Microsoft's FCC filings show 802.11g products on the way: Microsoft's first line of home wireless broadband adapters and gateway were well received. The manual, 96 pages long, received high marks. The next generation of gear is quietly on the way, perhaps due out his fall, supporting 802.11g.
802.11g in a mixed b/g network only delivers about twice the performance of 802.11b by itself: Matthew Gast, author of 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, walks through the math of how fast 802.11a, b, g, and b/g networks really are. His conclusion is that a b/g network can only run at about 1.6 to 2.4 times faster -- measured in actual data payload -- than an 802.11b only network.
The good news is that 802.11g in its pure mode does run about five times faster when measuring real data.
Eric Griffith of 802.11 Planet offers full insight into Wi-Fi Alliance's completed 802.11g certification round: The first set of manufacturers form the basis for future testing. This includes Intersil, Texas Instruments, Atheros, and Broadcom.
Early press releases from Texas Instruments, Broadcom indicate certification finished: Both TI and Broadcom sent me press releases this morning that their products have achieved Wi-Fi certification for 802.11g. More announcements are sure to follow with more details.
The Wi-Fi Alliance certifies products by actually testing them against a set of compliance guidelines. The Wi-Fi brand now includes 802.11b and 802.11g devices (2.4 GHz) and 802.11a (5 GHz); this fall, it expands to include WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) as a mandatory security measure.
Some enterprise-oriented wireless chip and device makers are still tentative on 802.11g: It's not that they won't make 802.11g gear, but they're not very anxious about. Symbol, which has a huge amount of 802.11b-and-before infrastructure and devices deployed, has concerns about compatibility and battery life, which makes a lot of sense in their logistics-oriented world. [via TechDirt]