Wireless networking is one of those “agony and ecstasy” kind of technologies.
When it works well, you think you’ll never need another network cable in your house again. But then you try playing a video using wireless, and it works well enough until someone else decides to go web surfing. Then you try to copy a large file and realize how much slower it is than 100Base-T, never mind gigabit Ethernet. Finally you begin to discover the “dead zones” in your house where radio signals go in, but they don’t come out. The fundamental hurdles for wireless—throughput, quality of service (QoS), and coverage—are numerous. As we reported last fall, two large industry “Pre-N” groups, the TGn Sync Group and the World-Wide Spectrum Efficiency (WWSE) have formed, and each espouses a different approach to achieving 100Mbits/sec of usable throughput in next-generation wireless technologies. Leading the WWSE group is Airgo Networks, which is headed by former Stanford researcher Greg Raleigh. Airgo is a chief proponent of MIMO (multiple in, multiple out, pronounced “MY-moh”) technology using multiple radios and multiple antennas. Its current chipset can currently be found in access points from Belkin and now LinkSys.
We got one of the very first review units LinkSys made available to the tech press and put it through its paces. What we found was very encouraging: 30+Mbits/sec throughput at a distance of 25 feet through two walls. But we were also able to get 30+Mbits/sec of throughput and very smooth playback of streamed video content…at the same time. Does it sound like we’ve been smoking something other than cigars? Well read on, because MIMO-based wireless can actually do this, and it’s going to change the face of wireless home networking as we know it. Continued…