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Airespace Finds MIMO

LAS VEGAS -- NetWorld + Interop -- Enterprise wireless LAN startup Airespace Inc. is introducing one of the first commercial access points to use a much-vaunted multiple antenna technology that is claimed to increase the capacity of 802.11 networks (see Airespace Touts Intelligent AP).

The firm is also pushing location as a crucial part of future corporate wireless LAN systems by offering customers a location software platform on which to develop specific applications (see Airespace Unveils AWLS).

The underlying radio technology used by the new access point, which is based around an Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) chipset, is called multiple input multiple output (MIMO). This involves twinning multiple (duh!) antennas with control software that switches radio signals to get the clearest connection between the AP and client devices.

Airespace's VP of marketing, Alan Cohen, says the the new box is aimed at "high-capacity, heavy-use corporate clients."

The Intelligent RF Access Point (IRAP) will work with all the currently available 802.11 standards and the company's switches, appliances, and access points. It will be available in the third quarter of 2004.

That could make it one of the first MIMO access points on the market. Accton Technology Corp. is working on a similar box, and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) is rumored to be testing the technology in the lab, but even MIMO chipsets from the likes of Airgo Networks are mostly still in the preproduction phase at the moment.

Still, other firms have attempted similar high-capacity WLAN plays by using other antenna technologies like beamforming, which combines several smaller radio signals into a larger, more powerful whole. Vivato Inc. has been the main exponent of beamforming, but after a strong entry into the switching market the firm has faltered of late, with a spate of layoffs and product delays.

Location seems to be a slightly less sexy technology than tweaking RF capabilities, but Airespace's Cohen is convinced it will become important for enterprise users.

"To be honest, I don't see this taking off for a year or so, but we wanted to be ready, you know."

The firm is trying to show customers the way by teaming up with Bluesoft Inc. to develop a "high value" RFID tracking system. This consists of Bluesoft's matchbox-sized 802.11 tag, which can be placed on expensive items in an enterprise environment and tracked via Airespace's WLAN network.

Unstrung hopes to see these technologies in action at the NetWorld+Interop trade event, and we'll bring you more news as we have it.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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