802.11a Networks: Stronger and Faster

Proxim, Agere, Intel, Bluesocket introduce a range of equipment.

Users seeking safer, faster, more adaptable WLAN products are getting an eyeful from vendors rolling out equipment ranging from new chips and PC Cards to gateways and multiprotocol access points.

Veteran WLAN companies Proxim Corp. and Agere Systems Inc. last week introduced products that support wireless connections of up to 54M bps via the 802.11a WLAN protocol.

At the NetWorld+Interop show here, Proxim announced it had started shipping its first 802.11a PCI Card. The card connects to 802.11a access points at up to 54M bps but can deliver speeds of up to 100M bps in the proprietary 2X mode, said officials of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company. The Harmony 802.11a PCI Card costs $279.

"The analogy here is 10/100 LAN wired networks; youve got the capacity for 100M bps but are able to negotiate just 10M bps," said Nicholas Gass, IT manager at Color Kinetics Inc., in Boston. "Youd buy a dual-band product just to provide legacy systems with the ability to use your new and improved network. But if I were choosing to install a new wireless LAN, Id choose [802.11a]."

Meanwhile, Lucent Technologies Inc. spinoff Agere Systems, of Allentown, Pa., announced the availability of an 802.11a radio and antenna kit for its Orinoco AP-2000 dual-radio wireless network access point, which lets IT managers add 802.11a support to their installed base of 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, WLANs. The AP-2000 is a two-slot wireless access point that helps IT managers migrate from one WLAN protocol to another without having to convert a whole network at once. It will support the upcoming 802.11g standard when it is ready, officials said.

The 802.11a kit consists of a 5GHz radio card and an antenna that mounts onto an AP-2000 access point. The kit costs $249.

Intel Corp. last week demonstrated an internally developed dual-band WLAN chip set, an indication that the company no longer plans to continue depending on third parties for WLAN silicon. The Santa Clara, Calif., company announced the Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN Dual Band Access Point, which allows for simultaneous Wi-Fi and 802.11a connections. Intel demonstrated the access point supporting a handheld computer running 802.11b and a notebook running the faster 802.11a.

The access point uses silicon from Atheros Inc., but Intel has plans for home-grown dual-band products. Officials at the show said that Intel will introduce its own WLAN chip set by the end of the year.

Intel plans to have mini-PCI Cards for dual-band WLANs next year.

The company also plans to support dual-band WLANs on its X-scale processors for handheld computers, although officials declined to say when.

In addition, Intel is working to improve WLAN security, including 802.11i, the IEEE standard designed to replace the flawed Wired Equivalent Privacy protocol. Intel engineers are among those editing the standard, and officials said it probably wont be ratified before the third quarter of next year.