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Airgo Goes Faster With Belkin

Wireless LAN chipset startup Airgo Networks announced today it has signed up Belkin Corp., which plans to use the firm's chipsets in the first "pre-802.11n" wireless LAN access points (APs) for the consumer market that could be up to four times faster than current offerings.

Airgo makes chipsets that use a smart antenna technology called multiple input multiple output (MIMO) to increase the data throughput offered over 802.11 up to 108 Mbit/s, if both sides of the wireless connection are using the Airgo chipset (see Airgoooooooooooo! ). Otherwise, Airgo CEO Greg Raleigh says, the technology can still offer improved performance for standard 802.11 clients.

The three antennas in the Airgo chipset improve the wireless throughput by each taking a "snapshot" of the data. The combination of the snaphots provides a fuller, more detailed picture of the data being sent, according to Airgo.

Belkin intends to also offer customers a MIMO PC card with its new access point so that they get the full performance benefits from MIMO.

"The seminal event for a wireless startup is worldwide commercial retail distribution," Raleigh tells Unstrung. The CEO is hoping that faster wireless in the home will encourage vendors to adopt his firm's technology in consumer laptops, and then enterprise notebooks and -- finally -- corporate networking infrastructure.

Eventually MIMO technology will form one of the cornerstones of the 802.11n standard, but the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is unlikely to ratify the specification before the end of 2005, and perhaps later.

But Raleigh is betting that will require the additional throughput that "pre-802.11n" products will offer for video streaming and other multimedia activities before the specification becomes a standard.

"We're not waiting," Raleigh says.

Analysts expect other firms to follow suit. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) is expected to attempt to repeat the success it had with its pre-802.11g products (see Airgo Starts WLAN Chip Race ).

Raleigh told Unstrung he had heard that Broadcom may attempt to introduce its first pre-802.11n/MIMO chipset in the first quarter of next year.

But a spokesman for Broadcom refused to comment on its roadmap for introducing new wireless LAN technology.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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