Dual-Band Returns Home

By Eric Griffith

October 04, 2004

Netgear is the latest company to reintroduce dual-band products—those with 802.11a and 11b/g support—in the home networking market, with designs on future wireless multimedia applications.

Last week, Linksys reintroduced its dual-band router and some new dual-band client products for the home market. This week, rival Netgear is following up with an all-new line of such products for the home, with the added feature of extra high speed and range using features on Atheros chips.

Dual-band support— that is, having both 5GHz band for 802.11a and 2.4GHz band for 802.11b/g in the same product—has been available for a long time in the home market, but didn't sell well due to the lack of 802.11a client products.

"We're seeing consumers now, and in the future, desiring more than just Web and e-mail and instant messaging on home networks," says David Henry, product line manager for Netgear's consumer router business. "The future has to support video and media and online gaming."

This is where 802.11a comes in. It has the speed (54Mbps standard), plus extra channels and lack of interference with existing products. It could be a major success for that market, even though it wasn't before.

However, big drops in price won't hurt, either. These latest dual-band routers cost half of what they did a year ago.

Netgear is pushing its new line with the name "Double" to signify the speed and range boost it says it gets using Atheros AR5004X chips that support Atheros Super A/G speed boost (claiming up to 108Mbps) and the XR Extended Range ("400 feet through walls and floors," says Henry). The Double line is the first line of consumer products out with XR built in.

The Netgear router can run both the 802.11a and 802.11b/g connections simultaneously, so users can continue to surf and do standard Internet on the latter, while using the former for video functions. Those multimedia-type functions aren't spelled out as yet, but Henry says, "I'd be looking out in the next few weeks as vendors release products with 11a for video."

He added that it is "no coincidence that Linksys and Netgear are doing this at the same time."

For now, the Netgear Double line will consist of just two products. The Double-108 Mbps Wireless Router (model: WGU624) for $129 comes with the standard features of a NAT/SPI firewall and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security. Clients can also get a $79 PC Card (model: WG511U). A USB adapter will come later this year at the same price.

Last week, Netgear also announced a Wall Plugged Wireless Range Extender Kit for the home, which combines HomePlug technology for moving data over a home's installed power lines with Wi-Fi, to get the signal to a spot it might otherwise not reach. One unit goes with the broadband connection or router and plugs into the wall. A second unit is then plugged into the wall somewhere else to act as an access point for the overall home network.

On the small-to-medium business side, the company has also started to OEM a software management system from an unnamed company to control its ProSafe line of products. Currently, the only wireless product it will run is the WG302 ProSafe Access Point, but the software, running on a central Windows Server, will also control all of the company's available managed switches. The WG302 was recently upgraded via firmware to run the AutoCell software from Propagate Networks that will let the unit automatically configure things like the channel and power settings to get the best signal, but the ProSafe Network Management Software doesn't as yet integrate the AutoCell View software that lets administrators visualize the auto-configurations in real time.



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