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The New 802.11n Standard
After years of waiting out the standards battle, wireless networks are getting ready for the speedy 802.11n. With its peak data throughput reaching the golden 100-Mbps threshold, this marks the first time a wireless technology will rival the network-edge-access incumbent, wired Fast Ethernet. Although Ethernet jacks won't disappear for some time, 802.11n brings with it the prospect of computing in which the preferred method of jumping on the network is wireless rather than wired.
The standard won't be finalized until 2008, but many consumer "pre-N" products are appearing on store shelves. Based on a draft of the final standard, these products offer increases in range and throughput as long as both the access point (AP) and client device use identical chipsets from the same vendor. This stipulation may be fine in a small office or home office, but an enterprise is likely to see little benefit to using "pre-N" gear because most client devices support only the slower 802.11a/b/g standards, and upgrading all client devices to "pre-N" gear is impractical.
Particularly noteworthy is the lack of interoperability among "pre-N" consumer products. Netgear sells two RangeMax Next AP products, the WN511B (based on Broadcom's Intensi-fi chipset) and the WN511T (based on Marvell's TopDog chipset), for example, and claims both are compliant with the draft version of 802.11n 1.0, but when a client based on one "pre-N" chipset is connected to an AP based on different "pre-N" chipset, their peak speeds barely rival 802.11g performance.
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