Netgear jump starts 802.11n

True to its promise of last month, Netgear has launched a family of products built around the draft 802.11n high-performance Wi-Fi standard.

The "Next" line-up includes a variety of cards and wireless access points, with users having to buy at least one of each to get the equipment's claimed speed of up to 300 Mbit/s (even then, of course, the actual throughput will be lower, owing to the industry tradition of quoting speeds inclusive of the rather high network overhead incurred by Wi-Fi).

The RangeMax Next Wireless Router Gigabit Edition with 10/100/1000 Switch, and RangeMax Next Wireless Notebook Adapter Gigabit Edition card will be sold together as a single kit. Stand-alone kit includes a 10/100 wireless switch-router, an identical product with a built-in DSL 2+ modem for the home market, and two transceiver cards, one in PCI form for desktops, and one a PC-Card for mobile users.

And all this before the standard has even been ratified, and with various parties still disagreeing about the status of any "pre-n" product brought out before the standard is complete.

As might be expected from a Wi-Fi launch, the new products debut a welter of in-house technologies designed to convince the mostly SoHo buyers that wireless has cracked the poor range, iffy throughput, and lack of robustness that have dogged it in the past.

Features include the same MIMO range-extension technology used in its current RangeMax series of wireless products, with the added benefit of the higher 802.11n throughput levels guaranteed by what the company describes as "11n-True Test" technology. This is said to allow the base station to perform at peak or near peak throughputs in a sustained manner.

In a similar vein, the company claims its "Steady-Stream" system will deliver stable concurrent connections that don't throw throughput-sensitive applications such as video or VOIP off beam, the company said.

"The bandwidth demands on wireless network infrastructures are increasing exponentially with a growing popularity and adoption of bandwidth-intensive applications such as high-definition video streaming, Voice-over-IP, file sharing, music and video downloads, and Internet gaming," said Netgear's Vivek Pathela in the official release.

"In addition to sheer bandwidth, it is especially critical for applications such as video streaming to have connections that are stable anywhere on the wireless network."

Security will be much as it has been on recent Netgear products, with encryption support up to WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK, suitable for secure if non-corporate use, and an integrated anti-DoS attack capability.

Pricing varies from US$349 for a networking kit comprising the Gigabit Edition Wireless Router and Gigabit Edition Notebook Adapter, down to US$249 for the Wireless Router Gigabit Edition.

With vendors jockeying for the hoped-for sales ramp, D-Link has announced that it is about to launch its own pre-N Wi-Fi hardware using the same Atheros chipset used in the new Netgear products.