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54Mbps WLANs roll in UK, Netherlands

Intel to ship 802.11a kit to select European countries by July

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Britain and the Netherlands will be the first in Europe to roll with 802.11a high speed networking kit, as country by country European approvals for the standard proceed.

By July users in the two countries will be able to buy kit that gives a theoretical maximum speed of up to 54Mbps, though the equipment needs to be set up so that only four base stations are used in a given area - instead of the eight available to US users.

This concession to regulators means 802.11a kit can be used sooner than expected and applies to all vendors, though Intel is the first to detail its plans for marketing the technology this side of the pond. Existing 802.11b networking kit allows transmission rates of up to 11Mbps in the 2.4GHz spectrum.

Networking kit based on 802.11a is already in sale in the US, but concerns expressed by satellite and radar operators have delayed full approval from ETSI, the European regulatory agency.

Using four base stations means transmission frequencies will be restricted to the 5.15-5.25 GHz part of the 5.15-5.35GHz spectrum used by 802.11a wireless LANs.

David Bradshaw, Intel's EMEA head of Wireless LAN product marketing, said there would be "no performance detriment" in using only a portion of the spectrum.

UK and Dutch 802.11a wireless access points will be the same as ships in the US and user documentation will explain how users can choose four legal bands during installation. Currently prohibited bands can be opened up when full regulatory approval, expected by the end of the year, is granted, Bradshaw explained.

Intel expects Germany, Sweden and Belgium will green flag the technology in a second phase of the roll out of 802.11a prior to modifications in the technology expected to satisfy ETSI's concerns. Full ETSI approval is expected by the end of the year.

This involves developing a technology called DFS (dynamic frequency spectrum) which means equipment will detect and avoid transmitting in bands used by existing traffic. A technology called TPC (transmission power control) which controls the power of signals sent to wireless access point - so helping to restrict the power of stray transmissions - has already been incorporated into 802.11a wireless networking kit. ®

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