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Linksys has begun shipping what it claims is the world's first wireless LAN product capable of operating across both 802.11 WLAN standards: a and b, and the as yet un-ratified 802.11g specification.

Netgear makes the same claim, for its WAG511 card, so we suspect both companies are OEMing the same unit. If not, they're announcements are pretty damn close.

The Wireless A+G PC Card - like the WAG511 - allows any notebook to connect to wireless networks operating in the crowded 2.4GHz band or the emptier 5GHz band, and communicate at up to 11Mbps or 54Mbps.

In short, whatever type of WLAN hotspot you're passing, you'll get a signal.

Linksys plans to follow up today's release with Wireless A+G PCI cards, broadband routers and access points later this month. The Access Points in particular provide a way to upgrade 802.11b networks to higher speeds while maintaining compatibility with older WLAN adaptors and notebooks with 802.11b built-in.

To date, multi-standard units have offered only single-band support. Apple's Airport Extreme basestation, for example, will only connect 802.11b and 802.11g systems, which operate in the 2.4GHz band.

But since 5GHz 802.11a units have been available for over a year now, such solutions freeze out any organisation that has begun rolling out WLANs based on that standard.

Both the PC Card and PCI add-in boards will retail for $99; pricing for the router and access point units has yet to be announced. Netgear's WAG511 comes in at $157. ®

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