Wireless data transmission can now be offered at 108 Mbit/s at distances between two and six times larger than previously. At least that it what Silicon Valley start-up Airgo has been telling journalists today.
Airgo has just sent out samples of its Wi-Fi chip sets and cards that it has been two years developing to potential customers. It is clearly in its interests to hype things up a bit. As such a tale about faster, further Wi-Fi at a time when wild speculation about wireless' future or lack of it is rife, is a very good move. The reality of the situation is likely to be far more mundane.
That's not to say Airgo's new products won't be good. Their chipsets use six radio antennas and multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology, which basically means that by sending the same data over three channels, its transmission is stronger and less data is lost, so speeds can be increased. Airgo claims its signal can also go through walls, although it stopped short of saying it can leap tall buildings.
Certainly if it works and Wi-Fi gets faster and can travel for further, it is hot news. Although we only have Airgo's word for it and the stuff has yet to be properly tested. Plus you can bet it will be more expensive. How much more will be a vital factor. There is also the fact that solving Wi-Fi concerns by simply pumping the same data out three times seems a little hamfisted.
The claim of 108 Mbit/s, as compared to today's theoretical maximums for 802.11a and 802.11g of 54 Mbit/s, is also a touch worrying since it is feeding off the same misunderstandings that had people decrying 802.11g just a few months ago. You will never, ever get 54 Mbit/s out of A or G is its current form. In reality, you get around 20 Mbit/s. We shall see what Airgo's chipset manages in real-life scenarios.
On the plus side, Airgo does appear to have an impressive cast. For example, its co-founder is Dr Richard van Nee, who wrote most of the 802.11 standards in the first place. The chief exec and chairman both know what they're talking about. It has about 90 staff, some of who put together Intel's Centrino Wi-Fi chipset. It has some backing apparently from Nokia.
So while it seems likely that Airgo will have some interesting kit, a wise man would wait for a big computer manufacturer to signal their complete confidence in these chipsets before even considering the entrancing idea of a faster, wider Wi-Fi network.