Atheros and Broadcom Both Guilty of Wireless Problems

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2003-11-20 Print this article Print

Broadcom broadsides Atheros for incompatible Wi-Fi, but wireless editor Jim Louderback argues that there's simply no place for non-standard 802.11g modes – whether it's Broadcom, Atheros or Intersil.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. —Geoffrey Chaucer, "Troilus and Criseyde" A year ago, I thought 802.11g was a dumb idea, but Ive changed my tune. With a ratified standard, and 802.11b interoperability, Ive become a big fan of the 54Mbps wireless networking scheme. Even Cisco and Microsoft have released 802.11g products, so you know its here for good.
But this week brought allegations by 802.11 chip maker Broadcom that chips made by rival Atheros can be so noisy—in a proprietary 108Mbit mode—that they block other 2.4GHz wireless devices, including phones, Bluetooth mice and keyboards, and other Wi-Fi devices.
But Broadcoms not innocent here. The two feuding chip makers—and the third big wireless chipmaker, Intersil—are all guilty of putting marketecture ahead of customers. And thats bad news for everyone. Lets start with Broadcoms allegations, which they laid out in a private meeting room at this years Comdex. The Atheros 802.11g chipset—used primarily by D-Link and NetGear—include the ability to ratchet up the 54Mbps speeds to (they claim) 108Mbps. This "Turbo" mode (called Super G by D-Link) only works when both the access point and the mobile device are running Atheros-based wireless network cards, and when both are set to run at "Super G" mode using configuration software. Super G gets a significant portion of its performance gain by channel bonding—multiplexing wireless traffic over two channels, instead of one. That doesnt sound like a big deal, because there are 11 selectable channels for 802.11g Wi-Fi, but that number is deceiving. In fact, there are only three non-overlapping channels, 1, 6 and 11. There wouldnt be much of a problem if the channel bonding simply took over channels 1 and 6, and left 11 alone. But the Atheros implementation centers the two channels in the middle of channel 6, which means part of channel one, and part of channel 11 are used up by the channel bonding scheme. Next page: An in-depth look at Broadcoms test setup and results.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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