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802.11a is coming standard

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Wireless networking is a key theme at Comdex, with a clutch of vendors touting next gen kit based on the 802.11a standard.

Intel yesterday announced a suite of 54Mbps 802.11a products which allow connection rates up to five times faster than 11Mbps 802.11b kit.

The Intel PRO/Wireless 5000 LAN Access Point, LAN CardBus Adapter for notebook PCs and LAN PCI Adapter for desktop PCs are now available in the US and countries where regulatory approval has been granted. The 802.11a standard, which uses the 5GHz band, is expected get the nod in Europe by the middle of next year.

Until then Intel offers dual-mode expansion kit which allows access points to support networks using products featuring both 802.11a and the 802.11b standard.

Intel joins Proxim and Agere as vendors shipping 802.11a kit. With 3Com saying it will ship 802.11a kit in Q2 2002, this leaves Cisco alone among key players yet to publicise 802.11a plans.

Within These Walls

During a key note address at Comdex yesterday, Cisco chief executive John Chambers demonstrated the company's next generation wireless LAN technology, but gave no indication of when it will ship.

Yesterday Cisco announced a deal with IBM Global Services, in which the duo will helpenterprises and public venues, such as hotels and convention centres, to set up wireless LANS based on 802.11b. The deal also involves the supply of firewall and fixed line broadband kit from Cisco.

Amid the hullabaloo surrounding 802.11a it's worth remembering that sales of the technology are not expected to exceed those of 802.11b until 2005, according to IDC, the analyst firm.

802.11b occupies the crowded 2.4GHz band used by Bluetooth devices and emissions which stray from microwave oven. But 802.11a also has technical issues. The new standard works over a much shorter range and can be blocked by walls. This means that much more careful though needs to be given to the location of wireless access points. ®

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