802.11-ngratitude

Chip bods Broadcom are very keen to tell the world about the glories of 802.11n, the next generation hundred-plus megabit wireless network that may even be finished this decade.

Chip bods Broadcom are very keen to tell the world about the glories of 802.11n, the next generation hundred-plus megabit wireless network that may even be finished this decade. Post Mobile World Congress, the company's PR sent out a whole bunch of Netgear RangeMax NEXT Wireless-N Routers -- bgWiFinDRAFTCERTIFIED! - to its friends in journalism, no doubt to seed the standard and get us all talking about it.

This hasn't worked out too well.

The journalists are already well configured with wireless networks - and what happens if you drop an 802.11n (draft) wireless router in among a nest of 802.11g devices? Best case - absolutely nothing changes. You might get more range, but we're journalists: we live in tiny hovels rather than the sort of vast American mansions where 802.11n (draft) makes a difference.

Worst case - you spend an evening reconfiguring your network, copying across your firewall rules, plugging stuff in and out, and it still doesn't work properly. Last time I checked, I had ten devices on my home LAN: you don't want to poke that with a stick until you've got a new hoop for it to jump through.

Hardly a win-win proposition. There might be some point if any of us had any other 802.11n (draft) gear (which, almost universally, we don't) or if the router supported the newer, uncrowded 5 GHz band as well as the 2.4 GHz band. Everyone wants to try that out, to the extent that we'd rootle around to get the gear together. But the router doesn't do that, so we can't.

Of course, we're journalists. Not normal people. Normal people may have a reason to upgrade to an 802.11n (draft) router. If you're a normal person and have such a reason, let me know. But of the three hacks I know who have copped a router, none is planning to install it any time soon. Ingratitude or common sense? You decide.

My router's going to go into the labs and wait for the next bunch of 802.11n (draft) kit to come in, for interoperability testing. (unless you do have a really cool reason you need one - drop me a line, and who knows...)

(PS: On closer investigation, this reticence may have proved useful. The routers come with American power supplies, of the sort that adapt American mains voltage to router-friendly DC, and European mains voltage to a loud bang and the gentle savour of fried electrolytic capacitors. Broadcom's PR is sending out new gear, this time without Hack Assassination Mode enabled.)

(PPS: The pocket Etch-A-Sketches included with the router, however, are superb.)

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