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Proxim doubles 802.11a wirefree bandwidth to 108Mbps

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Proxim has launched wireless networking technology which doubles the next-generation 802.11a standard's maximum bandwidth from 54Mbps to 108Mbps.

Notebooks integrating the technology could hit the market as early as Q2 2002, the company said.

The corporate-oriented Harmony Fast Wireless system operates in the 5GHz band - squeezing eight data channels between 5.15GHz and 5.35GHz - out of range of interference from other wireless products and noise-emitting hardware. The 802.11a spec. provides for a maximum throughput of 54Mbps, though in practice it delivers around 23Mbps.

Proxim's proprietary extension to the standard extends the maximum to 108Mbps, though with most of the bandwidth consumer by control and error-correction data, actual throughput comes in at around 34Mbps - 11Mbps more than vanilla 802.11a.

Of course, Proxim's '2x mode' will only work between Proxim products - connections to other 802.11a units defaults to the standard speed.

Proxim is offering the technology through its newly launched Harmony Fast Wireless line, which comprises a $249 PC Card notebook adaptor and a $695 base station - both are shipping in the US now. A PCI card for desktop systems is in the works too. Unlike Proxim's previous desktop-based wireless LAN adaptors, the 802.11a version isn't simply a carrier for the PC Card - it's a complete adaptor in its own right and as such should be somewhat more cost effective than its predecessors.

Prices are around 25 per cent more than Proxim's 802.11b products, which offer around half the throughput of the new line.

A mini-PCI module aimed at notebook OEMs keen to build the technology into their laptops is now sampling, with volume production scheduled to begin during Q1 next year. Notebook vendors could offer machines integrating 802.11a by the second quarter, said Lynn Chroust, Proxim's commercial networks division.

The European Union has yet to ratify the use of 802.11a in the 5GHz band, having previously decided to support a rival standard, HyperLAN. With almost no HyperLAN kit out there, the EU has been forced to reconsider its decision, the upshot being that Europe is lagging up to six months behind the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and other nations that have authorised 802.11a.

Proxim hopes to jump the queue, as it were, by seeking certification for its kit in individual European member states, with UK availability expected early 2002, according to Chroust.

IEEE 802.11a offers around the same range as 802.11b, but its throughput within that zone is considerably higher, said Chroust. And where 802.11b offers three separate channels - essentially allowing three separate networks to co-exist in the same space - 802.11b supports up to eight channels.

Proxim's 802.11a parts are based on Atheros' AR500 chipset. ®

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