USRobotics Delays Pre-Standard 802.11n Equipment - InformationWeek
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5/22/2006
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USRobotics Delays Pre-Standard 802.11n Equipment

The company is designing products based on the draft spec, but won't release them until at least the fourth quarter of this year, when presumably the final shape of the standard will be better known. Netgear isn't waiting, however.

One Wi-Fi equipment vendor Monday unveiled a new product based on the draft 802.11n specification, which promises faster network speeds and greater range, while another announced it would wait before delivering such equipment.

Netgear claimed that it was the first vendor to deliver a DSL modem/router that uses the draft 802.11n spec. It said that its ADSL2+ device provided faster speeds and greater range than similar equipment based on the 802.11g Wi-Fi standard, although it made no specific claims. Netgear is the latest vendor to announce equipment based on the draft specification -- Linksys, D-Link and Belkin are among the others.

However, one Wi-Fi gear vendor, USRobotics, said it was in no rush to release equipment based on the draft specification, a move that received the support of one industry analyst. USRobotics said it is designing products based on the draft spec, but won't release them until at least the fourth quarter of this year when, presumably, the final shape of the standard will be better known.

"Products developed with pre-standards technology, or even rushed to market with standards based implementations, put customers at risk of incompatibility," the company said in a statement released Monday.

The 802.11n standard is expected to eventually provide actual throughput of 100 Mbps or more and have a range significantly greater than current 802.11g wireless networking products. While the working group developing the standard approved a draft of the 802.11n standard earlier this year, more recently a new draft specification failed to be adopted.

Derek Kerton, principal of The Kerton Group, a wireless and telecommunications consulting company, said that some people will benefit by buying equipment based on the draft specification but that most won't.

"If you need the added range or throughput, it makes sense to buy pre-N equipment," Kerton said in an interview. "But you must be aware you're possibly locking yourself into proprietary equipment. There's no guarantee that it will be compatible with other equipment based on the draft or on equipment based on the ratified standard. It's caveat emptor."

Kerton noted that some pre-standard equipment is more reliable than others. For instance, several years ago, it was relatively safe to buy equipment based on the draft of the 802.11g. standard, which has long since been ratified and is now in widespread use. That standard supports theoretical throughput speeds only as high as 54 Mbps.

"With pre-G, that standard was pretty solid and there weren't a lot of other proposals on the table," Kerton noted. "Now, I know some people have tried different pre-N products and found they didn't work together. Vendors don't claim they're compatible, but still ..." Kerton noted that, often, release of equipment based on unratified standards is primarily a marketing move.

"A lot of customers just look at the speedometer and, if one box on a store shelf says 54 Mbps and the other says 108 Mbps, they'll pick the higher number," Kerton said. "A vendor can capture market share that way, but it can give the customer a bad experience down the road."

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