Cisco's Linksys subsidiary is launching three consumer Wi-Fi products today which will carry 100 Mbit/s of real data throughput. They are expected to arrive in Europe in May.
The products, a wireless router, notebook card and gateway based on a preliminary draft of the IEEE 802.11n standard, will be faster than most wired Ethernet connections and have improved range - enough to send multiple high-definition video streams throughout a typical home, according to Linksys.
Linksys, Cisco's home networking division and the largest domestic Wi-Fi supplier, is just the latest company to offer consumers products based on an early version of the standard, even though they can't guarantee they will work with other such products.
Business users are expected to wait until the standard is published, and consumers also should wait, unless they are already doing huge downloads or trying to send video over a wireless LAN, according to ABI Research analyst Mike Wolf. Next year, businesses will have stable interoperable products, and consumers will have cheaper devices.
The WRT300N Wireless-N Broadband Router and WPC300N Wireless-N Notebook Adapter will be available immediately from BestBuy.com in the US - but are not yet visible on any UK sites we could find. Cisco said the company would be shipping a DSL gateway with the new technology, in Europe starting on 15 May.
The router has an estimated street price of in the US of $149.99 and the PC Card is expected to sell for $119.99, more than twice the price of standard consumer 802.11g gear, which has a theoretical top speed of 54 Mbit/s and an actual throughput of around 25 Mbit/s.
The products are just the first of a series of offerings to be based on the draft 802.11n standard, according to Cisco. Other products in the Wireless-N family, for both homes and small businesses, will come in the second half of this year.
All the draft 11n products are backward compatible with the current 802.11b and 802.11g specifications and certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance industry group for that capability, said Malachy Moynihan, vice president and general manager of Linksys' home networking unit. The products also include WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption for security.
Support for home wireless video, which is not widely used with current wireless LANs, will be the major benefit of 802.11n, ABI's Wolf said. Video-on-demand over DSL agreements such as AT&T's with Akimbo Systems DSL indicate that the vision of converged computing and entertainment is moving forward, he said. In addition to streaming content between a PC and a wireless LAN-equipped TV or set-top box, consumers with high-speed wireless will find it easier to take matters into their own hands, he said.
"People are just going to send their own recorded shows onto their portable devices," such as mobile phones and game players, he predicted.
Linksys hopes buyers will be able to upgrade to the final standard with software, but can't guarantee it, Moynihan said. Interoperability among products will be a more complicated question under 802.11n than with earlier standards, he said. The standard lets vendors use different numbers of radios and antennas, so various combinations of products will be capable of different speeds. There may also be optional elements added to the standard to handle mobile-device issues such as roaming and power management, he added.
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