8022 Router Makes SOHO Connection

U.S. Robotics' cable/router combo speeds data delivery for 802.11b but won't expand networks' reach.

U.S. Robotics Corp.s 22M-bps USR8022 Wireless Cable/DSL Router increases the data delivery rate of 802.11b for small offices and home systems, but it provided only marginal increases in linear reach during eWeek Labs tests.

We tested the USR8022 wireless router and 2249 wireless access point in a wood-frame building, which has plaster walls built with, well, chicken wire. This material proved to be a serious impediment to the range of the access point that we tested.

However, IT managers are cautioned about drawing too many conclusions about the range of the USR8022 on the basis of our tests alone. Nothing can replace a site survey to determine the suitability of installing a wireless device.

We set up the USR8022 router in a closet approximately 12 feet off the ground and placed the end point—a laptop using U.S. Robotics 2210 Wireless PC Card—in a garage about 100 feet away. Although the PC was able to get a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol address from the router, the link was so poor that we were unable to access our high-speed cable service.

Using diagrams and suggestions in the documentation, we moved the router into the attic of the single-story building directly above the closet but saw no improvement in performance.

We then ran a Category 5 line through the crawl space under the building to a location about 25 feet away from the test PC. We got a link right away, although it still varied in quality. We were able to use the connection to achieve speeds that rivaled a wired connection using the same laptop PC.

We got the same passable performance when we moved the wireless router back to the closet and replaced it with a U.S. Robotics 2249 wireless access point.

The USR8022 router was simple to set up and configure. The security in the device wont stop a determined prowler, but the 256-bit encrypted Wired Equivalent Privacy encryption and media access control address authentication are probably enough to keep most neighbors from snooping on transmissions or surreptitiously getting free access to the Internet over the connection.

Because the product transmits in the 2.4GHz range and is based on the 802.11b standard, it should interoperate with other 802.11b products, although obviously at a lower transmission rate.

The real question about interoperability is based on U.S. Robotics use of Texas Instruments Inc.s chip set instead of silicon from Intersil Corp. TI uses Packet Binary Convolutional Code where Intersil uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing to boost the range of the faster traffic. This battle has the classic markings of a playground spitting match.

The best thing to do is to test the equipment with the installed network infrastructure. If it works, great. If not, try a different product. At $180 a pop for the two-port Ethernet switch, 802.11b 22M-bps integrated access point, router and print server, its a low-cost test. We tested wireless network cards for laptops and PCs and had good results with both.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.