802.11g connects with broadband users

Analysis: Equipment using a faster wireless LAN spec is now available in the UK, and an early product shows promise for broadband users, according to ZDNet UK Labs

The 802.11g wireless networking standard has not been approved yet, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers from beginning to release 802.11g equipment. For consumers and businesses interested in upgrading to 802.11g's 54Mbps speeds, some of the new equipment may be worth a second look, according to new tests from ZDNet UK Labs.

Reviewers examined the Buffalo AirStation WBR-G54, one of the first pieces of 802.11g equipment, and found that it performed well. Even with a PC 50 metres from the base station, the connection delivered well over twice the bandwidth of current 802.11b, or "Wi-Fi", networks.

(Read the full review: Buffalo AirStation WBR-G54.)

Apple gave a high-profile boost to 802.11g last month when it unveiled its new line of "AirPort Extreme" equipment using the standard. Unlike 802.11a, 802.11g uses the same unlicensed 2.4GHz radio band as 802.11b, allowing it to work with the older standard. However, if a client using 802.11b wants to use the hub, all the other clients must also throttle down to 802.11b's 11Mbps speeds.

Users might sacrifice some speed in order to get their hands on 802.11g kit right away, according to tests. The maximum data rate achieved by ZDNet UK Labs was just over 20Mbps, which is in the region expected, but is lower than testers expect from the standard once it is ratified.

The throughput of the access point was more variable at small distances, with performance levelling off -- though at slower speeds -- with greater separations, according to tests. At 50 metres the rate dropped to around 12Mbps, compared with 802.11b's throughput of about 5Mbps at a similar separation.

Besides its connection speed, the Buffalo AirStation has a good set of features and is easy to use, according to testers -- at least for cable modem users. The hub does not include a built-in DSL connection, however, meaning many broadband users will require an external Ethernet DSL gateway.

The IEEE is expected to ratify 802.11g in May, but changes may be made to the draft standard before then, which could either make older devices incompatible with newer ones, or could require the firmware in draft-standard devices to be upgraded.

Brush up on the ins and outs of the different Wi-Fi standards at ZDNet UK's Wireless roadmap special report.

Looking for a Wi-Fi hot spot near you? Check out ZDNet UK's Wi-Fi hot-spot map.

Discover the latest developments in Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS and other cutting-edge wireless technologies at ZDNet UK's Wireless News Section.

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