Wireless next

When the draft version of the 802.11n wireless standard is ratified sometime early next year by the IEEE, expect to see more of a company called NetGear.Back in 2002, NetGear was freed by Nortel Networks’ ownership. Since then the business has grown into a $575 million networking player, according to Vivek Pathela, its vice-president of marketing. It maintained an annual growth rate of 25 per cent for the past seven years, but Nortel did not see its potential and sold all of its remaining ownership interest in exchange for $20 million.

NetGear has already released a router using the draft ‘n’ version called the RangeMax. The device is capable of achieving 300 Mbps for wireless networking. According to VeriTest the gigabit edition achieves strong short, mid- and long-range uplink throughputs, while incorporating steady stream technology to deliver the stable connections required for high-quality media and telephony applications, even in heavy interference or long-range conditions.

The company has also launched an enhanced reseller program called PowerShift to bring more VARs on board, especially in North America. The two-tier program (gold and platinum) includes a deal registration program, dedicated technical support, up-front discounts and access to sales and marketing resources.

Pathela said the company’s vision for the connected home has remained since the Nortel split.

“The home is the primary vehicle for information, entertainment and communication in the new digital world,” he said.

He quoted Marc Andreesen, former founder of Netscape, that a billion people are connecting to the Internet and 250 million homes are connected to broadband Internet today.

Of those households, only 20 million are in the U.S. Pathela did not have a figure for Canada, but believed it was higher percentage than the Americans. By doing simple math, the majority of the adoption is taking place in Europe and Asia. The Web activities vary from music downloads, Xbox live gaming and voice chat with Skype. Pathela added that Xbox live users will do more than 250 billion hours of online gaming this year.

“In Europe and Asia they are building Internet gateways in the house with high speed boxes not just for data but for voice, and even TV and the Internet is run by IP,” Pathela said.

The current Wi-Fi standard is ‘g’ with a rate of 54 Mbps. Pathela said ‘g’ is effective at short ranges, but the farther you go away the signal and speed drops. “You can lose connections right at the corner of the house,” he said.

IEEE decided that more reach was needed inside homes with the given the emerging applications and the multiple usage from home networks, Pathela said.

“The wireless ‘g’ standard allows for only three clear channels so if all the neighbours are connected they will be using overlapping channels. In apartment dwellings in New York, for example, you may have 30 wireless networks, which will lead to congestion and a slowing of the network,” Pathela said.

When finalized the ‘n’ standard will lead to more range and less congestion, making it possible to stream HD videos. Users will also be able to print from anywhere, since most routers come with printing capabilities.

Photos will upload faster to online sites such as FlickR, access to Internet radio stations will be easier and Youtube could be live on your TV. “This goes beyond computing,” Pathela said.

“You get the ability to save, print a form from your TV anywhere with this kind of wireless solution embedded in the connected home or office.”

The RangeMax N is priced at $149 and comes with a guarantee to be forward compatible once the 802.11n standard is ratified. This means that the box will be software upgradeable if necessary. Pathela believes the ratification is a matter of paperwork. “The major hurdles have been overcome.”

The entertainer
NetGear has also released Digital Entertainer HD Internet set-top box for streaming digital multimedia files over home networks to HDTVs, Dual-Mode DECT Cordless Phone with Skype, the Storage Central Turbo, and Powerline HD Ethernet adapter.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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