Is Airgo the uncrowned king of 802.11n MIMO?

In March of 2005, the war for the 802.11n MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) high-speed wireless LAN standard seemed all but a foregone conclusion for the TGn Sync group since they had achieved a simple majority vote (57%) of attendees at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers 802.

In March of 2005, the war for the 802.11n MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) high-speed wireless LAN standard seemed all but a foregone conclusion for the TGn Sync group since they had achieved a simple majority vote (57%) of attendees at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers 802.11n task group.  Although TGn Sync failed the 75% super majority vote required for official draft standard status, it was able to eliminate every other standard from consideration including the second place winner WWiSE.  The TGn Sync alliance has backing from big name players like Atheros and Intel, but it subscribes to the wasteful practice of "channel-bonding" where two channels in the 2.4 GHz band are used.  TGn Sync is a "spectrum hog" that exacerbates the scarcity of radio spectrum.  WWiSE on the other hand stands for "World Wide Spectrum Efficiency" and sticks to a single 2.4 GHz channel.  Since each channel is 20 MHz wide and the United States FCC has approved approximately 60 MHz of spectrum for 802.11 b/g, only 3 802.11 b/g channels are non-interfering with each other.  Fortunately, the WWiSE camp is back in the race when the TGn Sync group failed to even get 50% of the vote last month.  One could only speculate on this turn of events, but could it be because the WWiSE camp is dominating the "pre-N" market place and killing the competition on the benchmarks?

Airgo Networks is a small startup based in Palo Alto California, and is part of the WWiSE alliance pushing for spectrum efficiency.  Airgo makes the "True MIMO" chipset which currently leads the Pre-N market place not only in market share but also in speed and range.  It is important to note that the term "Pre-N" is not official terminology, but a marketing term that implies 802.11n draft status when no such draft exists.  There are currently few products on the market that use other MIMO standards.  Belkin, Linksys, and even Netgear all have products that use Airgo's True MIMO chipset.  Samsung has even begun to embed Airgo's True MIMO technology in to their laptops.  Netgear is a bit of an odd ball since they were originally supporting another startup called Video54, but they appear to be hedging their bets with True MIMO.  Netgear has a consumer product marketed under the "RangeMax" name which uses a mix of Atheros Super-G technology and Video54 MIMO antenna technology, but they also produce a business line product that uses Airgo's True MIMO technology.  Both Belkin and Linksys have jumped on board with True MIMO and their products are the undisputed king of speed and range.  Netgear's RangeMax product was recently tested on Tomsnetworking and got mixed results.  Although it was able to out-burst True MIMO at times, it mostly averaged less than True MIMO and required some user tuning to attain those results.  The only product from the TGn Sync alliance was from D-Link which used Atheros' channel-bonding spectrum-hogging MIMO technology.  D-Link refused to be reviewed on Tomsnetworking, but it was probably for the better since they got a poor review on PC Magazine which briefly said that the D-Link product lacked range and declared the Linksys Airgo True MIMO based product the fastest performer.  Based on independent benchmark testing from various sources, one has to conclude that products based on True MIMO are the most mature, have the longest range, and have the best sustained throughput at any range.  What's even more surprising is that True MIMO seems to be beating all the other technologies with half the radio spectrum!  This means that the wireless air space using Airgo's technology can support more than twice the aggregate payload when all channels are used.

Cisco is the owner of Linksys which already has adopted the early leader in MIMO with Airgo, and I wouldn't be surprised if Cisco starts adopting Airgo in its enterprise line of products.  Since Cisco has approximately 59% of the enterprise wireless LAN market share, they could single handedly make True MIMO the de facto standard regardless of 802.11n ratification.  From a marketing standpoint, Cisco could then legitimately claim they have the best range, best throughput, and best spectrum efficiency in the enterprise market and market will buy it.  Historically speaking, the industry never waits for the standards bodies and sometimes market share can even make standards moot.  Any company dumb enough to wait three years for a standard to ratify will simply watch their competitors swallow up the entire market long before the standard even goes in to draft phase.  Airgo's True MIMO has the potential to attain critical mass in market share and it would justifiably do so since it holds all the desirable characteristics one could hope for.  Speaking from the standpoint of a wireless LAN architect, any product that wastes half of my usable wireless spectrum regardless of standards ratification will never see service on my network.

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