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Battlin’ Task Group N reports! Unstrung reports that the Enhanced Wireless Consortium proposal will get a vote in January but TechNewsWorld writes that it’s a battle of the joint proposal and the EWC proposal: It’s a little confusing, but clarity is coming. Task Group N was mired down in a stalemate between the WWiSE and TGn Sync proposals. A compromise was being attempted in a joint proposal group developed by the two groups. Meanwhile, Intel, Atheros, Broadcom, and Marvell—four leading Wi-Fi chipmakers—developed the EWC proposal outside of the joint group and then got 23 other companies to sign up for it. Airgo, the leading MIMO chipmaker, stayed out, as did Motorola and Nokia.
Here’s why we’re seeing confusion. Unstrung says that Airgo expects to get a passing vote on what must be the joint proposal in January with drafts starting in the March meeting. (This would mean 50 percent of voters agree in January, but 75 percent must accept a draft as a starting point. That’s where things can easily get hung up.)
TechNewsWorld, on the other hand, cites other sources that cast the issue into a fight between the EWC and joint proposals.
Who wins? Probably Airgo, in that they maintain their lead in producing products that are garnering the best reviews for range and speed. Who loses? Consumers by not seeing costs come down and a delay in interoperability, and smaller firms that are losing out on business before there’s interoperability that allows them to become niche players and build a market on top of commodity products.
Tim Higgins rounds up most of the MIMO gateways and PC Cards out there for head-to-head, quantitative comparisons: HIs exhaustive testing and results analysis at Tom’s Networking reveals that Belkin’s Airgo implementation has the best consistent bandwidth performance, critical to gaming, voice over IP, and streaming media. (Linksys declined to provide equipment for testing, but it’s quite similar only more expensive.)
Interestingly, Higgins discovered that the newer Belkin equipment based on Airgo’s second-generation chips—cheaper and with one fewer receive channel than the first generation—provide equivalent or better consistent performance than the original Pre-N labeled devices. He recommends Belkin’s gear for its consistent performance.
For pure average throughput, Zyxel, D-Link, and TrendNet come in on the top, with both Belkin generations next in line alongside NetGear’s RangeMax. Higgins recommends D-Link, Zyxel, and TrendNet for best throughput.
He is down on the Super G mode from Atheros found in several devices he tested because its fastest mode (with or without MIMO options) requires a switch from two-channel to one-channel operation whenever “normal” 802.11b or g is detected. These changes in channel usage are what cause the great variations in consistent delivery of bits rather than overall throughput. In denser networking environments, like an apartment building or older residential neighborhood with small lots, the channel-bonding mode of Super G can barely add bits.
SMC is using Ralink’s chipsets for its new MIMO gear: The set of equipment includes a gateway, a PC Card, and a PCI Card for $140, $60, and $60, respectively. More devices in the line are due next year. The technology isn’t described in depth in this press release, but it appears to be promising better range and throughput but not increased throughput.
NetGear may have announced MIMO devices based on Airgo’s latest chip, but Linksys is shipping: Linksys brings its SRX400 gateway and PC Card to the market today through its online store; retailers will see products shortly. The devices are based on Airgo’s third-generation chipset, which offers raw speeds of up to 240 Mbps among devices using that silicon by dynamically using expanding to use 40 MHz or the equivalent of two channels on a packet-by-packet basis that avoids stepping on other transmissions in the same area. With 40 MHz and two spatially multiplexed channels, they can quadruple raw 802.11g speeds without losing compatibility.
The gateway’s retail price is $150; the PC Card, $100.
NetGear is the first to announce shipping dates for routers, cards based on Airgo’s 240 Mbps third-generation MIMO chips: The NetGear product line, called RangeMax 240, will start shipping “this holiday season” with the router and PC Card for retail prices of $199 and $129. The USB 2.0 adapter will ship next year for a price not mentioned.
The third-generation Airgo chips avoid colliding with other Wi-Fi networks by examining radio frequency usage dynamically. They can use multiple data streams as the frequency space is available rather than just dropping to a lower speed for a few minutes and testing whether the coast is clear. This improves overall throughput even in Wi-Fi-filled environments.
The net throughput should exceed 100 Mbps Ethernet speeds when all RangeMax 240 gear is used. The devices are backwards compatible with previous generation Airgo chips and with 802.11b and 802.11g devices.