RealTime IT News

Buffalo Ships First 802.11g NIC with USB

Buffalo Technology, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan's MELCO Inc., today announced that it is the first company to ship an external 802.11g network adapter utilizing a Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 interface. The AirStation 54Mbps Wireless USB Adapter-g (model WLI-USB-G54) will cost an estimated $99 at retail and has a 2 year warranty.

While 802.11g has been available in products for many months, its use in clients has been limited to CardBus cards (32-bit PC Cards) or internal PCI cards for desktop systems. No companies have shipped external 11g USB modules because of the speed bottleneck: 802.11g runs at 54Mbps -- actually around 22 to 24Mbps in the real world. The original and ubiquitous USB 1.1 standard runs at only 12Mbps, thus throttling the throughput at the USB port. It was more than enough for the slower 802.11b (11mbps, 5Mbps in the real world), but not for 802.11g.

USB 2.0, also known as Hi-Speed USB, however, runs at 480Mbps -- more than enough to handle 802.11g speeds, even with speed tweaks like Broadcom's Xpress technology, the company's branding of a not-quite proprietary WLAN performance enhancement, which uses a bursting technology likely to be finalized with the advent of 802.11e (being worked on now by the IEEE).

The WLI-USB-G54 will use Broadcom's 54g chip (not the newly announced single-chip, low power chip, however) and has a single-chip USB 2.0 interface provided by NetChip, which allows PCI-based systems to support USB 2.0. Broadcom announced a set of 11g and 11a/g with USB 2.0 reference designs in June at the last 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo (now called the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo.)

The actual Buffalo product will measure 2.3 x 4.8 inches, site on a desktop or on the computer and connects via a USB cable, which is where it draws power from. No separate AC power adapter is needed. It has an option to be mounted on the wall if preferred. It supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), 64- and 128-bit wired equivalent privacy (WEP), 802.1X, MAC address registration, and has built in hardware-support on the Broadcom chip for advanced encryption standard (AES). The product can utilize external antennas from Buffalo.

It's available now from CompUSA stores and from Buffalo's channel partners.