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Craig Mathias of Farpoint has been one of the most sensible analysts on the subject of 802.11n and Wi-Fi: He’s now happy with the direction of the market, and things that 802.11n has become mature in a non-traditional sense. Most of the elements have been in products for almost four years, he writes, and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification process will put the icing on the cake for compatibility. With corporate products already announced, that puts a faster track on enterprise adoption, too. He thinks adoption in the consumer and corporate space will happen sooner than later.
If you tell yourself often enough that’s something true and have a peer group, you think it is true: Peter Judge at Techworld writes about the top four laptop makers adopting Draft N 1.0-derived chipsets, and how non-certified interoperability testing is convincing more manufacturers. The spin is that early N is great for the small office/home office market that’s sophisticated enough to update their firmware regularly to take advantage of frequent protocol fixes.
Judge notes that a Broadcom VP expects the tipping point to come in early 2007, with Intel expected to ship Draft N products and Wi-Fi Alliance certification appears. Judge says (or perhaps paraphrases) that the Wi-Fi Alliance hasn’t “branded” (really, lab tested and certified) a draft before, but that’s not correct. WPA was based on a draft of 802.11i when that standard was far too delayed, too, stalling the marketplace due to security concerns. Likewise, the Draft 2.0 of 802.11n will be fairly mature, with a year of compromises and work between 1.0 and 2.0, making it much more stable than a typical 2.0 draft in these sorts of IEEE committees. (802.11g was at Draft 5 when Broadcom put it into silicon, for instance, but drafts were being updated every bimonthly meeting or so.)
For some reason, NetGear decided to issue a press release about its upcoming 802.11n products: They claim they will have a 600 Mbps (raw) 802.11n device out in the first half of 2006 that will meet the in-progress spec, TechWorld reports. The 600 Mbps rate is raw speed using the maximum number of spatial streams, a 40 MHz-wide channel, and the largest antenna matrix. This should top 300 Mbps of real throughput.
The press release doesn’t say NetGear guarantees that their draft 802.11n devices will be upgradable to the full version. Understatement by me follows: One would expect forward compatibility assurances. However, companies are reluctant to state such.
Can we have firms raise their hands: Who among you is willing to say that any draft 802.11n equipment shipped will be replaced if necessary to provide full, certifiable 802.11n compliance?
Airgo says 1.5 million devices using their chipsets were produced last year: That’s a nice number, as some companies list “chips” not “chipsets,” and can overcount devices. They expect 5 million “True MIMO” devices to be installed (not just produced) using their technology in 2006.
Airgo’s latest generation of multiple-in, multiple-out technology features up to 240 Mbps of raw throughput by using two spatially separated datastreams that can dynamically expand on a packet-by-packet basis from 20 megahertz (one Wi-Fi channel) to 40 MHz when the airspace is unused.
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.
Airgo’s True G gear will be less than $100; sports two antennas: True G is Airgo’s alternative to True MIMO, which employs multiple simultaneous data streams over different paths when endpoints are using Airgo’s technology. True G only has two antennas to True MIMO’s three—as sold by Linksys, Belkin, and others. A company spokesperson explained that the reduction in cost was achieved through fewer antennas and a lower component count.
Airgo has been frustrated in its attempts to capitalize on MIMO as a term that they “own”: True MIMO is a trademark, but Airgo also wants MIMO to refer only to those devices that use spatial multiplexing. (Some dispute Airgo’s founders position as the inventors of MIMO, too, citing earlier papers, but the founders’ early work in the field is what’s been instantiated as product by them.)
True AG chipsets will also be available for 802.11a and g range extension. Both True G and AG will have two receive and two transmit antennas; the True MIMO devices have three receive and two transmit antennas.
According to this article, Airgo expects street prices of gear based on their chips to drop to $129 to $149 for True MIMO and $69 to $99 for a router for True G. True AG will be slightly more expensive.