The Wireless LANscape
Is 802.11g ready for prime time? Although it isn't yet a ratified standard, several manufacturers have decided not to wait and have released draft-compliant, or prestandard, 802.11g products. Here's how to decide for yourself.Not so long ago, the terrain of the wireless world seemed rough, wild, and desolate. The complexity of products and interoperability issuesnot to mention high costskept consumers and businesses alike from embracing wireless networks. This despite their obvious lure: the freedom to roam untethered without losing a connection. That lure has kept manufacturers and engineers returning repeatedly to their drawing boards to refine standards and hardware, and their efforts have paid off. By the end of this year, 1 million households in the United States will have wireless networks, according to research firm Gartner Dataquest. Among PC Magazine readers, 51 percent have home networks, and of those, 36 percent are wireless. With two official 802.11 standards and one on the way, the landscape continues to grow.
The most hyped addition to the wireless space in the past year has been 802.11g, though it isnt yet a ratified standard (the IEEE expects to approve the standard sometime this summer). Nevertheless, several manufacturers have decided not to wait and have released draft-compliant, or prestandard, 802.11g products. Ratification ensures that all manufacturers are using a standard blueprint to develop compatible products; hence, you run the risk of facing interoperability issues with prestandard "g" products. But manufacturers promise that such products can be brought up to spec via firmware upgrades; in fact, some already have released upgrades to match changes that have arisen during the ratification process.