Airgo Reacts to Pre-11n 'Paranoia'

By Ed Sutherland

October 25, 2004

Despite a strong policy statement from the Wi-Fi Alliance banning the release of uncertified Wi-Fi gear using technology many believe will form the basis of the new, high-performance 802.11n standard, one chipmaker and one hardware vendor plan to do just that.

The Wi-Fi industry is being split over the controversy surrounding the efficacy of pre-802.11n products, according to one company CEO involved in the debate. "There are two camps: There's the camp of the early adopters and the people who are paranoid," says Greg Raleigh, CEO of Airgo Networks.

As Airgo-powered products get set to hit the shelves, industry group Wi-Fi Alliance is threatening to come down hard on companies using the yet-to-be formalized high-speed wireless 802.11n standard.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, hoping to avoid the problems which arose when pre-802.11g products hit the market before the standard was officially certified, recently warned Alliance members that the group would pull the 'Wi-Fi certified' logo from companies which jump the gun.

"To help assure that Wi-Fi technology users continue to have a positive experience, the Wi-Fi Alliance will revoke the Wi-Fi certification of any product with claims of IEEE 802.11n capabilities if that product is proven to adversely impact the interoperability of other Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products."

Despite the warning, Belkin plans Oct. 24 to release a wireless router and networking card using Airgo's True MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology.

Belkin claims the new products offer "800 percent wider coverage and 600 percent faster speeds" than 802.11g. Skirting the Wi-Fi Alliance's admonition, the company notes its 'Pre-N' brand products are certified as 802.11a/b/g compatible.

"Belkin will use the Pre-N brand," says Raleigh. "They're not implying it is 11n compatible," he says.

"The idea this is confusing to consumers is dishonest," Raleigh says.

Although Belkin notes Airgo's True MIMO is just "one of the underlying technologies being considered for 802.11n," Airgo's Raleigh is more certain of MIMO's future.

"MIMO is guaranteed to be the foundation of 802.11n," says Airgo's CEO. While there are 36 proposals being offered as how 802.11n will look eventually, all use MIMO, says Raleigh.

"Global regulatory organizations understand the tremendous consumer benefits and spectral efficiency advantages of MIMO OFDM, the technology recently selected as the basis for the next generation Wi-Fi standard, IEEE 802.11n," according to Raleigh.

Airgo's confidence is the result of the first global certification allowing products using its True MIMO chipsets be sold in the U.S., Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The regulatory OK frees manufacturers "so they can immediately sell the next generation of Wi-Fi products," said Raleigh.

A commercially available MIMO "finally removes the barrier of Wi-Fi," says Raleigh. "Everyone wants wireless, but they don't like the wireless they have."

Airgo believes MIMO will revitalize the Wi-Fi market. The industry has been hit by a lack of originality, falling prices and products often returned because they do not match the marketing claims.

"Before True MIMO, retailers had a pretty vanilla market," says Raleigh. "Retailers are thrilled because this will reduce their product returns."

According to the Airgo CEO and president, consumers return 30 percent of Wi-Fi products. "The number one reason for returns is that it won't cover the home," according to Raleigh.

Speaking of the promise of pre-802.11n products: "you can have the future of Wi-Fi without waiting," concludes Raleigh.



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