Linksys is announcing a line of faster 802.11g gear that the company says significantly boosts wireless LAN speeds without the use of proprietary technology.

Linksys' SpeedBooster, an extension of the 802.11g standard, increases performance by 35 percent on a SpeedBooster-only network, and up to 20 percent when used with standard 802.11g products, Linksys says.

Currently, the most popular speed boosting technology is the controversial Super G, which Netgear has sold since September 2003 and which D-Link has just introduced into the UK.

Super G, developed by chipmaker Atheros, uses a technique called "channel bonding" to achieve 108 Mbit/s speeds when used with similar equipment but this uses more than one of the channels available for Wi-Fi and limits performance of other devices.

Netgear says Super G makes up about 30 percent of its 802.11g equipment sales, while standards-compliant Linksys has seen a slight drop in WLAN market share - from 56.6 percent in December 2003 to 53.1 percent in January 2004.

Faster Wi-Fi will remain a battleground for some time, as the IEEE's 802.11n standard, which is expected to get 100M bit/sec speeds, is at least a year away - and its scope is still undefined.

Till then, go-faster products will only achieve higher speeds when they communicate with other similar products, which flies in the face of the Wi-Fi Alliance's push to ensure all Wi-Fi products interoperate. Despite this, the group has sat on the fence, certifying products which use Super G, but only examining them in standard 54 Mbit/s mode. The Wi-Fi Alliance says it will not certify any vendor's 108 Mbit/s mode or any proprietary mode.

SpeedBooster is based on wireless chip from Atheros rival Broadcom, called Afterburner, which increases efficiency by reducing the amount of overhead transmitted with the data packets, and including features such as bursting. "What's important for end users is that Afterburner is a friendly overlay on top of 802.11g," says Jeff Abramowitz, senior director of WLAN at Broadcom.