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802.11g WLAN standard gets IEEE nod

The long-awaited wireless LAN standard, 802.11g, has finally received the stamp of approval from the Standards Board of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Final ratification took place last Thursday during an IEEE Standards Board Review Committee meeting.

The 802.11g is seen as a speedy replacement for plodding 802.11b, which transmits data at 11 megabits per second (mbps), and a low-cost alternative to high performance 802.11a, which is pricey because it utilizes the 5GHz band. 802.11g utilizes the 2.4GHz band to deliver the same 54 mbps data transmissions as 802.11a and, because they both use the same band, "g"-based equipment can co-exist with "b"-based gear on the same network.

Although some vendors have shied away from 802.11g because of early interoperability problems with 802.11b products (most notably Microsoft and HP), a number of vendors were undaunted by the incomplete standard. Dell Computer has been promoting a Broadcom-based 802.11b/g wireless card for its notebook PCs. And Intel recently announced that it would begin using the technology in its Centrino bundle sooner than planned. Centrino is a combination of three technologies bundled into laptops: the Intel's new, low-power Pentium-M processor; a chipset; and Wi-Fi components.

Wi-Fi network gearmaker Linksys, another early adopter of the technology, continued to develop 802.11g-based products despite initial problems. That move is now seen as a contributor to the company's lead in the home networking equipment market.

In fact, according to a study by the Dell'Oro Group, products based on 802.11g accounted for 16% of the wireless networking market's revenue and 17% of shipments in the first quarter of 2003. That study also found that worldwide revenue for wireless networking equipment reached $411 million in the first quarter. That figure is 1% higher than the previous three-month period, according to Dell'Oro researchers.

The IEEE group also approved a standard for high-rate WPAN connectivity, known as 802.15.3. The 802.15.3 standard also operates in the 2.45-GHz band and at similar rates to 802.11g (from 11 Mbit/s to 55 Mbit/s, but is designed for shorter-range (1 meter to 50 meters), very low-power operation. It also uses the time division, multiple access (TDMA) protocol.

While 802.11g products based on the draft standard are already available, products based on the new 802.15.3 standard are not expected to appear until 2004.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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