Compaq Bundles Wireless Home Nets

SAN FRANCISCO (05/09/2000) - Compaq Computer Corp. is extending its wireless home-networking reach, announcing yesterday it is bundling products from Proxim Inc. based on the HomeRF standard.

Starting immediately, when you buy a Presario home PC or notebook through Compaq's Web site or a retail kiosk, Compaq will throw in a Universal Serial Bus or PC Card-based Proxim Symphony-HRF networking adapter for $99. You'll need at least one additional card for an existing notebook or desktop to create a network. Those additional components cost $119.

The HomeRF standard enables two computers to network wirelessly at a distance of up to 150 feet. It supports a maximum transfer rate of 1.6 megabits per second.

Proxim has offered a HomeRF-based product for some time, but this one is different, says Jim Ganthier, director of Compaq's interconnected products organization.

The new Symphony-HRF cards include a few Compaq-specified hardware changes, and numerous software improvements, he says. The software improvements make the cards even easier to install and operate, he says.

The software also makes this the first HomeRF product to bridge the gap between wireless and other home networking products, Ganthier says. Compaq also bundles the WinGate 4.0 application from Deerfield.com, so you can connect your wireless network to existing Ethernet or home phone-line network.

Compaq chose to work with Proxim to create a HomeRF-based wireless networking product because of the company's experience with HomeRF technology, Ganthier says. Proxim is a longtime member of the HomeRF standards group.

Proxim offers its own ISA- and PCI-based wireless products. Compaq opted to create a USB product because the technology is much easier to use, Ganthier says. An ISA or PCI-based card means you have to open the case for installation, but with USB you just plug it in and go, he says.

HomeRF Surge Approaches

Compaq is among the first major PC hardware vendors to offer a HomeRF-based product. Intel also recently announced plans to ship Home RF-based AnyPoint products by early May. Intel says a USB adapter will sell for a list price of $119, and a PC Card adapter for $129.

The HomeRF standard has come under fire by critics who argue its 1.6-mbps speed make it a poor substitute for the slightly more expensive IEEE 802.11b wireless standard, which can hit 11 mbps. Products using the IEEE 802.11b standard are already in the market.

Compaq sees a place for both technologies, Ganthier says. In addition to offering the Symphony HomeRF product for home users, the company supports the 802.11B standard for corporate environments.

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