MIMO in the Office

By Eric Griffith

May 02, 2006

Bluesocket will be using chips from Airgo to get better range and performance for corporate networks.

In what may be a first, a product based on MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) technology is coming to the enterprise.

bluesocket1700.gif Bluesocket of Burlington, Massachusetts says its new high-end BlueSecure Access Point 1700 (BSAP-1700) will use the Airgo Networks 3rd generation True MIMO chip.

"We believe a technology leap is occurring," says Mike Puglia, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Bluesocket, referring to the MIMO tech. "But 802.11n, it's a long way off in reality."

MIMO is the technology that will be the backbone of the 802.11n specification, the future high-speed Wi-Fi. However, Airgo has decided to forgo making any chips using Draft N, that is, based on the early draft of the 11n specification recently voted on by the IEEE. Other chipmakers and vendors are currently touting such Draft N products for home networks.  

However, Airgo's chips are documented as working extremely well with existing 802.11a/b/g clients -- thus Bluesocket's claim of a 30 percent increase in performance and range using this AP.

Claims about upgradeability of MIMO or Draft N products usually are about whether it can be done with a software or firmware installation, and experts say anyone making a promise like that today is making a big mistake. Bluesocket is guaranteeing an upgrade to 11n, but by changing the internal hardware. Inside each dual-band 1700 unit are six antennas and two miniPCI card modules, one with 5GHz 802.11a and another with 2.4GHz 802.11b/g. When 802.11n is finalized —probably in about 18 months to two years, depending on who you talk to — the cards can be swapped out for new modules supporting 802.11n in 5GHz or 2.4GHz, in any combination the customer wants.

Puglia says that customers didn't want just a home AP with a Bluesocket label slapped on; this product, like others from the company, supports enterprise features like multiple SSIDs. They also asked if they'd have to throw the product out after 11n debuts -- and the company's answer is to have replaceable internal cards.

"We're not looking to make money off of the upgrade kits," says Puglia. "They'll be less than $100 for two [802.11n] cards."

The 1700 is in on display at Interop and in trials now. It should be available to customers by July at a price of $795 per AP.



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