Netgear is set to launch a two-radio 5GHz 802.11n router with a new internal antenna system at less than half the price of some rival products for the SOHO and residential wireless LAN market.

The router is one of several new Netgear products aimed at what WLAN vendors are betting will be a strong buying surge for 11n equipment. The draft IEEE standard is being implemented in products that deliver 150Mbit/s to more than 400Mbps, compared with 54Mbit/s for today’s 11g and 11a equipment.

Besides this router, Netgear has also released an 11n router with five Gigabit Ethernet ports; bridges that connect Ethernet client devices over an 11n radio link; and an 11n USB adapter for desktop and notebook PCs.

These are the first Netgear products to run 11n in the 5GHz band. Previous products, and most from rivals, have offered Draft 2 (or even Draft 1) 11n support only in the crowded, noisy 2.4GHz spectrum.

The aggressive low price for the RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router is due in part to the fact that only one of the radios is 11n. Some rival products have two 11n chips, which by default can work with 11g or 11b clients. But the Netgear RangeMax Dual Band router offers one radio in a conventional 11g chip for legacy clients in the 2.4GHz band, while the router’s 11n radio can be set to either frequency band.

Netgear is also using a new technology to add additional antennas direct on the printed circuit board. These antennas, intended to improve signal quality and reliability, are over and above the multiple antennas with the 11n silicon. A key element in 11n is the use of multiple antennas to subdivide a data stream into typically two or three substreams, each sent or received by a separate antenna. Called multiple input multiple output (MIMO), the technique make is possible to reach data rates of 150Mbit/s to 450Mbit/s depending in part on the number of antennas.

The new Netgear 11n router in effect layers another grouping of antennas over these, according to Netgear officials. The company first introduced this idea three years ago in new RangeMax products. But the new 11n router uses a technology called “metamaterial” which despite the name is not a material. Instead, it’s a new way to design antennas, according to Som Choudhury, product line manager with Netgear’s advanced wireless group. The antennas can be placed very close to each other without interference, he says.

The router has four 10/100 Ethernet ports for its integrated LAN switch. For security, it supports the Wi-Fi Protected Set-up (WPS): an industry specification that automates and simplifies the work of creating a secure WLAN. It’s available now in the US at a retail price of $130 (£64).

The RangeMax Wireless-N Gigabit Router has one Gigabit Ethernet WAN port and four GigE LAN ports. It’s single-band 11n chip also has a metamaterial array of eight antennas. It’s priced at $160 (£79).

To support what are now mass storage requirements for home and small office nets, especially with the growth of multi-media files, Netgear is introducing a two-drive version of its ReadyNAS network-attached storage product, called ReadyNAS Duo.

The new model is a simplified, streamlined version of the four-drive model aimed at the small-midsize business market. Netgear stripped out features like SNMP, the ability to take snapshots of data, and software for integrating with Microsoft Active Directory.

It does have a gigabit Ethernet port, updated firmware now based on the Linux 2.6 kernel, and automated RAID configuration for redundancy. “You plug in the second hard drive and we handle the whole thing automatically,” says Sam Feng, director of product marketing, Netgear network storage products. If you need to upgrade, you can pull out both drives and plug them into the four-bay model, which also automatically configures the RAID arrays.