Netgear, D-Link Gearing Up to Ship 11n Draft Products

Despite controversy, nothing is going to stop vendors from selling high-speed wireless products before the specification is final.

The ink is barely dry on the 1.0 version of the 802.11n draft, but that isn't stopping the industry from selling products based on the early stages of the specification. Netgear said Wednesday it has an entire line of 11n draft products ready to ship into the retail channel in the next week or two — they're selling via e-tailers right now, according to Vivek Pathela, the company's Vice President of Product Marketing. Not long after, D-Link also announced plans for a 802.11n line called RangeBooster N 650 series.

The Netgear RangeMax NEXT lineup includes:

  • Wireless Router Gigabit Edition with 10/100/1000 Switch (WNR854T) for $249
  • Wireless Notebook Adapter Gigabit Edition (WN511T) for $129
  • Wireless Router with 10/100 Switch (WNR834) for $179
  • Wireless Modem/Router with 10/100 Switch (DG834N) for $249
  • Wireless Notebook Adapter (WN511) and Wireless PCI Adapter (WN311) for $129 each
  • Wireless Access Point (WN802T) for $249

RangeMax NEXT RouterYou can get the Wireless/Gigabit router and Gigabit notebook adapter  in a single kit. The products come in a new design, with all the antennas internal. The promised speed is "up to 300 Mbps," and they'll use a Netgear-created "Steady Stream" technology to ensure stable connections for sensitive data streams like video and voice that can't tolerate interruption. The products will also support the usual litany of Wi-Fi needs, such as WEP encryption, Wi-Fi Protected Access with Pre-Shared Key (WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK), intrusion detection, NAT and SPI firewall, and a DMZ feature (called exposed host) for opening up a product on your network to the outside world, usually for gaming.

Marvell chips going by the official brand of TopDog power the two Gigabit products [Netgear hasn't yet said what chips are in the other RangeMax NEXT products]. Pathela says the Marvell silicon is based on the 802.11n 1.0 draft. The chips support MIMO multiple antenna configurations including 3x3, 2x3, 2x2 and 1x2; they also include Gigabit Ethernet support, with wired connections going up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).

D-Link's line of products coming later this month:

  • RangeBooster N 650 Router (DIR-635) for $160
  • RangeBooster N Desktop Adapter (DWA-547) and RangeBooster N USB 2.0* Adapter (DWA-142) at $120 each
  •  RangeBooster N CardBus Adapter (DWA-645) for $100

D-Link RangeBooster NThe D-Link products will use the AR5008 chipset from Atheros. The products will come with a new installation wizard to ease installation.

802.11n draft spec products are certainly not unexpected — chipmakers Atheros and Broadcom also announced plans in January to get products out this year — but there is controversy about whether or not the products will be upgradeable, and if they'll cause interference with existing 802.11 networks.

Netgear's Pathela says, "The next few IEEE 802.11 ballot meetings will determine what may be stated about any draft-11n product and its upgradeability to the ratified 802.11n. At this time, we are not making any statements about upgradeability."

D-Link does not come out and say that its products are upgradable to the final 11n, but says in its press release the products "will serve as the new high-performance industry standard for wireless networking with seamless interoperability and compatibility with existing and future products."

At the current time, neither theRangeMax NEXT line nor the RangerBooster N 650 line are Wi-Fi Certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, but Pathela says testing is in process for certification of its 11b/g compatibility. (The Alliance doesn't have testing for 11n yet, and won't until the specification is finalized in early 2007).

Potential interference caused by 802.11n is one reason why the 11n Task Group in the IEEE formed an ad hoc group at the last meeting. "Essentially, it wasn't a group made to solve a problem," according to Sheung Li of Atheros and the Vice Chair of Task Group N. In an interview in March, he said, "Most [members] thought 1.0 was good. But we wanted to resolve things outside the meeting."

This issue was brought to media attention after the last 802.11n meeting by Airgo Networks, the chipmaker that has long had a leadership position with MIMO technology. Now its competition — companies like Marvell — are producing chips of a similar nature in quantity. Netgear used Airgo's True MIMO chips in the previous RangeMax 240 line of products.

Despite whatever fears Airgo may have, the company is still selling chips. The company this week announced that Buffalo Technology will be releasing a new line of products in the U.S. with Airgo's 3rd Generation True MIMO chipset; Buffalo has Airgo products for sale in Japan already. The line includes routers and a PC Card notebook adapter, and will use Buffalo's own patent-pending AOSS (AirStation One-Touch Secure System) technology for easy security setup. Last month, Airgo signed ASUS up to release a router and notebook card.

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