Faster wireless standards wait in the wings

Two new standards for wireless LANs are emerging. Products compliant with the IEEE 802.11a standard operate on the 5-GHz spectrum and have maximum throughput rates of 54 Mbps, though 22 Mbps is more typical.

Proponents say 802.11a technology produces higher throughput than 802.11b systems for multimedia applications and can handle more users simultaneously. Tests have confirmed this but have also shown that the range of 802.11a products isn't as great as those based on the 802.11b standard.

Entering the market

IEEE 802.11a products are beginning to show up commercially, though their manufacturers are reluctant to release their grip on the more lucrative market for 802.11b Wi-Fi equipment. It is too early to tell whether 802.11a equipment will directly compete with Wi-Fi products or occupy a different market niche.

Meanwhile, 802.11g is an even newer set of standards that hasn't yet been ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, so new products can't be expected until the end of this year or early next year.

The standard also boasts a maximum 54-Mbps throughput rate and, because it also uses the 2.4-GHz frequency band, its products will probably be compatible with Wi-Fi.

For the moment, though, things look good for Wi-Fi products. They're slower than their emerging competitors, but they have the edge of being established.

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