Linksys jumps on faster Wi-Fi bandwagon

Linksys has announced three products based on a draft of the IEEE 802.11n standard.

The still-emerging standard is designed to deliver at least 100Mbps of real throughput. That's more than most wired Ethernet connections and with its improved range is enough to send multiple high-definition video streams throughout a typical home, according to Cisco Systems' Linksys division. The company has launched a wireless router, notebook card and gateway.

Vendors are lining up to offer consumers equipment based on a preliminary version of the standard even though they can't guarantee it will work with other early products. But unless a consumer is already doing huge downloads or trying to send video over a wireless LAN, it makes more sense to wait until next year for lower prices anyway, according to ABI Research analyst, Mike Wolf.

All the draft 11n products were backward compatible with the current 802.11b and 802.11g specifications and certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance industry group for that capability, vice-president and general manager of Linksys' home networking unit, Malachy Moynihan, said.

The products also include Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption for security.

Linksys hopes buyers would be able to upgrade to the final standard with software, but can't guarantee it, Moynihan said. Interoperability among products would be a more complicated question under 802.11n than with earlier standards.

The standard lets vendors use different numbers of radios and antennas, so various combinations of products will be capable of different speeds. There might also be optional elements added to the standard to handle mobile-device issues such as roaming and power management, he said.

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