RealTime IT News

D-Link, TI Tweak 802.11b+ Speed

Just when you thought that 802.11b had all the possible extra speed wrung out of it that could happen in the real world, someone finds a way to get more. Double, in fact.

That's what Irvine, CA-based D-Link is claiming about the firmware upgrade that will be available in December for its AirPlus products, which use the so called 802.11b+ to gets 22Mbps speed in the 2.4GHz band, and AirPlus Pro dual-band products, which use a mix of the 5Ghz 802.11a at 54Mbps with the 802.11b+ at 22Mbps. The firmware upgrade doesn't change the product bandwidth of 22Mbps, but will push 802.11b+ to about 12Mbps in real world performance. That's about one-third to one-half times more than what the AirPro products had been capable of up to now.

"I've seen actual through put up to 13.5Mbps at five feet -- 12Mbps over longer distances...that's significant," says D-Link spokesman Bradly Morse. "It's 3 to 4Mbps on standard 802.11b."

The so-called 802.11b+ is a function of using the ACX100 chipset from Texas Instruments (TI) that supports PBCC modulation to crank out the extra bandwidth, at least when used with other TI based products (use 802.11b+ with regular 802.11b products and they all fall back to the standard 11Mbps). Morse says D-Link worked with TI to get the speed increase. A TI spokesperson says the upgrade is an option for other customers using the ACX100 chipset in its products.

The products supported in this firmware speed enhancement include:

  • AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless Router (DI-614+)
  • AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless Router (DI-714P+)
  • AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless Access Point (DWL-900AP+)
  • AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless Cardbus Adapter (DWL-650+)
  • AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless PCI Adapter (DWL-520+)
  • AirPro Multimode 2.4/5GHz Wireless Router (DI-764)
  • AirPro Multimode 5GHz Wireless Router (DI-754, modular design for upgrade to support 802.11b+)
  • AirPro Wireless Network 2.4GHz/5GHz Multimode Wireless Access Point (DWL-6000AP)

    The firmware will be available for free on the D-Link Web site, but also will be sold at retail outlets for $29.99.

    "A lot of our retailers were interested," says Morse. "Having something that fast is significant. They think having it at the store, more people will get it."

    There may be enough customers out there to justify the retail move. A report this week from Synergy Research Group puts D-Link as the number four supplier of SOHO and home wireless networking equipment with 15.5% of the market. They lag only behind Linksys (with 19.6%), Buffalo Technology (15.8%) and Netgear (15.5% also). Synergy says the adoption of broadband in the home is the driving force behind the market.

    This speed boost for D-Link's products comes along with an announcement that they will be introducing a line of multi-mode products based on the draft for 802.11g, the high speed specification that uses the same radio frequency band as 802.11b. Because they share the band, 11g and 11b are compatible and will communicate with each other, albeit at the lower speed of 11b. The 11g specification allows vendors to support speeds up to 54Mbps if they choose. D-Link has not yet decided which chipset vendor they'll use to power the new line of products.

    Morse says 11g products won't be around until the end of the first quarter of 2003. Even then, the company will not abandon 802.11b+ as it moves to the new specification, however. "It's a situation where the tech has gone forward, we're going forward to 'g' products, [but] we're going to continue to provide for the 'b+' along the way."