In eWEEK Labs tests of Linksys wireless LAN equipment based on Version 1.0 of the 802.11n draft specification, we found the products to be incredibly fast and incredibly picky.
We spent hours trying to squeeze performance out of the devices in a densely populated RF (radio frequency) environment. When we gave up on that, we wasted dozens of test runs trying to find the right antenna placements. It was just the amount of tinkering one would expect with an essentially beta product.
Our initial testing report appeared on eWEEK.com on April 24, the day Linksys equipment was made available. Just hours after the evaluation was posted, a Broadcom representative e-mailed me to ask why I compared the draft 802.11n equipment to proprietary Airgo-based gear and whether, in future tests, I would "keep the Wi-Fi brand pure." (The Linksys equipment we tested was based on Broadcoms Intensifi chip set.)
I responded by saying that the Airgo equipment deserved a mention because it was the fastest we had tested up until that point. But, more important, unless Linksys and Broadcoms other hardware partners are willing to slap a guarantee on their gear stating, "This equipment will definitely upgrade to the true 802.11n standard," then I consider everything I tested to be proprietary.
We should not forget that Wi-Fi branding is based on a certification process—backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance—to prove compatibility among products from different vendors. And, even if the 802.11n standard is ratified early in 2007, as is currently anticipated, we should not expect to see "Wi-Fi N" certification until the summer of 2007 (if we use the 802.11i standard as a guideline).
Our tests show that consumers needing a little more oomph from their wireless networks now have more boutique products to choose from, but people who manage and maintain mission-critical WLANs (wireless LANs) shouldnt, and wont, get lured in yet. Well continue to follow the spec—and equipment based on it—as it evolves.
Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.