Receive new posts as email.
This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator or JiWire, Inc.
Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2006 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.
Linksys and NetGear expand their 802.11n line-up: Linksys has added two inexpensive 802.11n home routers for 2.4 GHz connections. The WRT160N at $100 has 10/100 Mbps Ethernet and no external antennas in a new form factor; the $130 WRT310N upgrades to gigabit Ethernet. They also introduced inexpensive dual-band add-on adapters: the WEC600N ($80) for ExpressCard slots, the WUSB600N ($80) for USB, and the WGA600N ($90), an adapter for gaming systems like the Xbox. This is a very nice price drop to add both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11n to older computers.
NetGear, meanwhile, has expanded its line to include the WNDR3300, a $130 dual-band, 8-antenna router with a 4-port 10/100 Mbps Ethernet switch, and the WNDR3500 ($160), which is 5 GHz only and has a 5-port gigabit Ethernet switch. A $230 kit comprises two 5 GHz 802.11n access point/bridges (WNHDE111, $130 by itself) as a paired set for gaming, streaming video in HD, or other bridging purposes. NetGear also offers up a dual-band USB adapter (WNDA3100, $100). PC Magazine noted there was no ExpressCard or PC Card adapter mentioned at the show.
SMC Networks introduces 2.4 GHz Certified Draft N router, USB 2.0 adapter: The $60 router includes gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi Protected Setup support. The $40 USB adapter looks nicely compact, too. Prices have now dropped to what 802.11g hit in about 2005.
The company says its Intensi-fi chips will have native support for Skype: This support means less coding and less work on the part of integrators who want to have Skype in their handheld devices. Lenovo also said they will include the Draft 1.0-like 802.11n that Broadcom offers in their N100 and some 3000 series laptops.
Dell will offer Broadcom-based Draft N adapter as built-to-order notebook option: The “Dell Wireless 1500 draft-802.11n dual-band wireless card” will use the Intesi-fi technology that Broadcom has developed in advance of an industry-approved standard for 802.11n. Broadcom isn’t alone, but I’m stunned that Dell will sign onto this at this stage. The upgrade costs $59. (Acer will ship a Q3 laptop with Draft N built in, The Register reports.)
The press release from Broadcom states, “Broadcom Intensi-fi technology complies with the current IEEE 802.11n draft specification and is available in a variety of draft-802.11n routers, including those from Linksys, NETGEAR and Buffalo.” There is no way to comply with a draft specification of this sort. It’s an early draft, likely to change, and there’s no one outside of the firms trying to push this early Draft N gear who believes it’s a good idea to write one’s name in water.
The Broadcom press release also states, “Intensi-fi solutions are also interoperable with draft-802.11n technology from other chipmakers.” Yeah, right. In certain testing which belies most of the magazine lab tests of the technology. What’s the brand promise behind this statement? What happens if a competitors updates their firmware, and interoperability fails? This is why the Wi-Fi mark works—stable standards, independent lab testing, and the possibility of failing tests—and this kind of standards-by-marketing committee fails.
This is making me slightly ill as I see companies rush to push something out that nobody needs. Regular MIMO on the market provides the distance boost that’s really at the crux. The rest of this Draft N technology could patiently wait until the standard is done.
I reiterate that no manufacturer I’m aware of is willing to promise that equipment they release today will be fully upgradable and interoperable with the final, release 802.11n specification even if they have to swap out hardware. Without that promise in place, they’re selling what could turn into expensive paperweights that offer minimal functional improvements at excessive cost compared to what final, shipping, interoperable, certified products will provide in probably no more than six months.
Wait, I say, wait.
A Dell spokesperson provided a clear statement that I believe is frank and fair to my question as to whether Dell would offer upgrades if hardware were required. Dell said,
“Dell felt there was compelling value for our customers in the current draft standard, in terms of range and throughput, to justify releasing a product based on the draft.
“Although the Dell Wireless 1500 is fully compliant to the current draft and several elements of the draft will be incorporated into the final standard, Dell cannot guarantee upgradeability to the final standard. Regardless of final upgradeability, the Dell Wireless 1500 card will continue to perform at throughput rates and ranges superior to 802.11g, when paired with Draft 802.11n routers with the Intensi-fi technology, and provide customers with the ability for multiple users to use high-bandwidth wireless applications throughout the home.
“Also note, the Dell Wireless 1500 Draft 802.11n card is backwards compatible with 802.11 a/b/g wireless standards, so users will always be able to access these wireless networks no and in the future.”
This is well stated. There is nothing misleading or incorrect in this response. However, I don’t believe that any Dell customer should purchase what is essentially a beta or pre-release item that cannot be guaranteed upgradability. But I appreciate that Dell isn’t overhyping the product.
Dell may put Draft N adapters into new laptops: DigiTimes cites unnamed private sources at chipmakers stating Dell is planning a third-quarter launch of notebooks using Draft N.
At first glance, this seems like the world’s worst idea. Take an underbaked draft of a standard that no chipmaker will guarantee hardware upgrades on if needed for final ratified compliance and stick it into an internal module that can’t be easily swapped out. Great.
On second glance, the “third quarter” date is probably malleable. Dell may be committing to a future draft that’s much further along. By fall, there could be a mostly baked standard that is guaranteed by chipmakers to be firmware upgradable.