Channel Bonding Gets Automatic

By Eric Griffith

March 16, 2004

While Atheros says only competitors complained about issues with Super G usurping other network's channels, they've got a new update that serendipitously fixes it. Plus, the company goes for honesty in marketing.

Atheros Communications unveiled a new technology for its high-speed 802.11g and 11a chipsets today that it says will, among other things, fix an issue the company has been taken to task for by competitors.

The fix comes in the form of a software upgrade called Dynamic Turbo that will let Atheros' Super G speed boosting technology automatically check available 802.11g channels for existing traffic before it does any channel bonding.

Channel bonding is just one aspect of the Super G Atheros uses; it also includes draft 802.11e standard frame bursting and compression to push throughput speeds on wireless networks. Over the last few months, companies like Broadcom have said that channel bonding cripples nearby wireless networks by usurping the radio frequency channels the network needs to operate.

Colin Macnab, vice president of marketing and business development at Atheros, says that Dynamic Turbo isn't being released to fix the channel bonding "problem" -- he notes that not a single customer of their major OEMs like D-Link or Netgear have complained or returned a product that uses Super G -- but says that a "nice side effect is that the bashing we've got is sidelined by this capability It completely resolves that issue."

At this point, he says Dynamic Turbo will work exactly the same as it did with previous channel bonding, but only if no one else is on the channel. It will also constantly check for other traffic and if it detects any it will turn off the bonding.

Atheros has supplied its customers with the upgrade and it's up to the companies to provide the upgrade to end users. D-Link today announced an upgrade for its Xtreme G line of products that uses the Super G technology, saying that the new dynamic channel bonding can increase throughput up to 144 percent depending on various factors. The download from D-Link is free.

Dynamic Turbo aligns with what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said are its goals for cognitive radio -- smart radios that can selectively pick the spectrum they need to operate.

Atheros says that with Dynamic Turbo running in Super G mode chips, they have seen real-world throughput as high as 60Mbps in tests. There is of course a numbers game in marketing such products; they call it 108Mbps Super G but the 108Mbps is like the so-called 54Mbps of standard 802.11g -- you can only reach it with optimal conditions and no network overhead. Macnab says his company, which once said it had real-world transmission of 90Mbps, is staying away from "joining in crazy schemes of quoting compressible data rates." The 60Mbps number is based on testing with typical data files, not files "filed with all zeros" that are highly compressible. Agere Systems this week introduced compression on its own chips, and claimed that 150Mbps speeds were available at the high end.

"It's not real, users can't get it," says Macnab of such highly compressed files used to get numbers for marketing. "It shows the impossible."

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