Intel launches 802.11a Euro assault

World swings its way

Intel today launched 802.11a WLAN cards into Europe, or quite a lot of it. The company has received regulatory approval for the use of 802.11a products in France, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. And it reckons other European countries will soon follow suit.

It's also shipping the Intel PRO/Wireless 2000 Land Dual Band Access Point continent-wide. This supports 802.11b clients and delivers an upgrade path to 802.11a. And it's bundling together an access point and two notebook adapters into a 802.11a starter kit. It says that PCI and mini-PCI adaptors will be available in Q3.

The data transfer rate for 802.11a cards is theoretically 54Mbps, approximately five times faster than the 11Mbps available for 802.11b equivalents. In practice, the real speed for both technologies is around half the stated maximum.

It's been a long haul getting 802.11a through Europe's maze of regulators, many of which have been less than keen to free up radio spectrum for its use. Procrastination over choosing rival wireless standards also means that Europe has lagged behind the US and some Asian countries in adopting 802.11a.

However, the War seems won, and although there are plenty of battles still to be fought, the world is coalescing around 802.11 in its many guises as the wireless standard, albeit on different spectrums.

This is welcomed by Intel's Sean Maloney, head of Intel's Communications Group. In his keynote speech today at IDF Europe, Maloney cites Gordon Moore, Intel's chairman emeritus, with one of his less well-known observations: "You get out of a recession with tomorrow's products". Stuff that will excite consumers, that will get them buying again. Malone clearly thinks that wireless computing is a tomorrow product, or what he grandly dubs a "post-recessionary technology".

But this is tempered with some caution. He notes that 802.11 is "probably towards the height of a hyperbole curve". However, Intel is very keen on the technology.

802.11 has the potential to deliver "truly ubiquitious computing", Malone says. The stress here is on potential. It goes back to standards again, ensuring interoperabilility, getting seamless billing systems in place (just like currently exists for mobile phones) making sure that 802.11a and 802.11b co-exist everywhere, sorting out the security mess.

Intel loves standards: they mean mass economies of scale, driving down prices and creating mass markets. It will continue working the backrooms to ensure that world sticks to a single set of wireless standards. ®

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