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November 14, 2005

Netgear Rangemax 240 starts next-gen Wi-Fi standard showdown

Here’s the press release – NETGEAR® First to Deliver Wireless at Wired Speeds with Launch of RangeMax 240

NETGEAR Inc., a worldwide provider of technologically advanced, branded networking products, today announced its RangeMax 240 family of wireless networking products, the industry’s first wireless networking solution capable of delivering data at speeds previously possible only through wired Ethernet connections. Offering superior reliability and coverage, hallmarks of the RangeMax line of products, while increasing wireless speeds up to 240 Mbps, NETGEAR’s RangeMax 240 family eliminates dead spots in home or office environments and provides fast enough wireless speeds to support simultaneous bandwidth-intensive applications such as high-definition video, Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony, streaming audio, and online gaming.

NETGEAR’s RangeMax 240 Wireless Router (WPNT834) incorporates advanced MIMO technology with Adaptive Channel Expansion. It provides a data rate of up to 240Mbps when used with the RangeMax 240 Wireless Notebook Adapter (WPNT511) and USB 2.0 Adapter (WPNT121), meaning that for the first time wireless has attained an effective throughput of up to 100Mbps comparable to that of 10/100 Fast Ethernet wired networks. In addition, it is compatible with and connects simultaneously to RangeMax 240, RangeMax, and all other 802.11b/g clients. Adapting to changing wireless conditions is unique to NETGEAR’s RangeMax technology, and RangeMax 240 dynamically avoids interference from neighboring wireless networks to maintain the most reliable, high-performance, long-range network connections to clients.

Here are the product pages for the router and notebook adapter. Online retail seems to be about $170 and $110 respectively. The USB adapter will not appear until 2006.

Sounds great, but there’s a fly in the ointment as Ephraim Schwartz describes at InfoWorld:

Battle lines are now being drawn over the next-generation WLAN standard, IEEE 802.11n, which promises speeds of 100Mbps and higher, as well as increased range.

Behind a seemingly innocuous announcement last week of a new wireless router from Netgear lies a major WLAN industry schism that pits the likes of Cisco, Intel, and Sony against Nokia, Texas Instruments, and Airgo Networks, the chipmaker for Netgear.

Unfortunately, the real losers in the skirmish could be enterprise customers buying nonstandard implementations of 802.11n under the mistaken belief that they will be interoperable with other products.

Vendors looking to increase ever-eroding margins on commodity 802.11a, b, and g gear have been pushing for higher speeds and a faster ratification of 802.11n. Tired of the wait, Airgo Networks designed its own 802.11n-like chip set to be used first by Netgear in its RangeMax 240 router, announced last week, which has a maximum performance of 240Mbps.

Although it is backward-compatible with 802.11a, b, and g, it is still unclear whether Airgo’s MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) Gen3 chip set will work with the actual 802.11n standard, admitted Dave Borison, director of product management at Airgo.

And to the point, Airgo is part of a industry group called WWiSE which is in competition with a group called the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC), with members such as Atheros, Cisco, Intel, Symbol, and Toshiba that is developing its own version of the standard and products to match.

This isn’t particularly new news or limited to enterprise customers since “pre-n” routers are an easy consumer purchase for home Wi-Fi and have been for some time. You just have to keep compatibility in mind with all your gear until the standard gets sorted out. Those of us old enough to live through the dial-up modem standard wars are familiar with impatient manufacturers leapfrogging standards and it was worse for modems because usage was much less likely to be exclusively “in house”. What saves you in diverse environments is the backward compatibility to earlier standards. Also at some point the vendors will also start claiming upgradeability to the eventual formal standard, but it’s still too early for that with pre-n.

Posted at 11:02 am. Filed under Airgo, Atheros, Brands, Cisco, Companies, Intel, MIMO, Netgear, Nokia, Rangemax, Sony, Symbol, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Wi-Fi

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