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Toshiba to demo simplified 100Mbps WLAN

1Gbps version coming in three years

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Toshiba's European R&D division will next week demonstrate a "low complexity" WLAN capable of achieving raw data rates of up to 100Mbps - almost double what today's 802.11g standard can offer.

The company will show off the technology at the ITU Telecom World 2003 conference in Geneva, which opens its doors on Monday.

Toshiba's system uses a technique called MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output), which improves WLAN performance by utilising multiple channels simultaneously through multiple antennae. Spatial multiplexing schemes put the data back together again while improved signal processing boosts the network's range. Performance increases proportionally with the number of antennae built into the system. MIMO uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), the basis of 802.11g.

Toshiba, alas, isn't the first to achieve a 100Mbps WLAN. US wireless networking chip maker Airgo has already begun sampling chipsets that use a dual-antennae MIMO rig to offer 108Mbps.

And last month Intel committed itself to designing MIMO into its future WLAN products and to push for the inclusion of the technique in the putative 802.11n standard, currently being developed as the successor to 802.11a, b and g.

Toshiba claims to have extended MIMO not only by improving the bandwidth it offers over single-antenna systems, but by simplifying the underlying hardware. Company boffins use a technique called pseudo-exhaustive state space searching to reduce the complexity of the work a WLAN adaptor has to do to decode incoming radio signals. The result, says Toshiba, is "vastly reduced power consumption, turning high-bandwidth, wide-range WLAN into a commercial reality".

The researchers are also developing WLAN systems that adapt to different environments to provide the best performance they can, irrespective of traffic type, network topology or data rate. Again, such adaptability is also a keystone of Intel's ongoing WLAN research work. Toshiba is also developing device detection and auto-configuration systems that can create secure, robust networks without user intervention.

Meanwhile, Toshiba's implementation of a MIMO-based wireless network will be used to transport MPEG 2 video streams across the demo network, to show how future WLANs may be used in the home as the basis of consumer entertainment systems.

"Our research is focused on improving the performance and flexibility of WLAN whilst removing the complexity of implementing and managing solutions for end-users, whether they're businesses or consumers. We've already reached a significant milestone - a low complexity 100Mbps solution - and expect to break the 1Gbps barrier in the next three years," said Prof. Joe McGeehan, head of Toshiba's Telecommunications Research Laboratory, based in Bristol. ®

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