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More Wi-fi Trouble on the Horizon

by June 18, 2006

Philips Electronics Adopts Troubled Draft-N

Philips just announced a deal with French semiconductor company Metalink Ltd to supply 802.11 draft-N chipsets for new Wi-Fi consumer electronics products. Philips will integrate Metalink's draft-N technology into its home entertainment equipment including PVRs, HDTVs and Digital Media Adapters. The 802.11n protocol will offer speeds in excess of five times that of existing wireless protocols 802.11 a/b/g and will be capable of meeting bandwidth demands of high definition video and multi-channel audio. Metalink's new WLANPlus chipset uses MIMO technology that was adopted for 802.11n to deliver multiple HDTV streams to receiving Wi-Fi devices within 100 feet in the 5GHz band.

"We believe that in 2007, driven by the adoption of the 802.11n standard, Wi-Fi chipsets will be widely used by consumer electronics manufacturers for products such as HDTV displays and DVRs (Digital Video Recorders)" says Philip Solis, senior analyst at ABI Research.

While the intent of the Royal Philips Electronics Company is certainly noble, wireless home theater products are a great idea but only when the Wi-Fi Alliance has finalized the 802.11n protocol. Philips seems to be rushing these new wireless high definition products to market and that will likely burn the early adopters.

Draft-N or Pre-N is the designation for products being released that are designed to use a rendition of the 802.11n protocol that has not yet been finalized by the Wi-Fi Alliance. This means early products are only 802.11n inspired and are not real thing. We've seen in several reports that draft-N isn't likely to be compatible with the final 802.11n protocol, nor will firmware fixes and updates be enough (necessarily) to pull all products into compliance.

Independent testing has demonstrated problems getting existing draft-N products to talk to each other. New information shows even more serious problems. It seems current draft-N routers are operating as wireless signal jammers .

Independent testing shows draft N equipment experiencing new unexpected problems that should make them illegal to operate under the guidelines of the FCC. While testing Wireless N routers for interoperability and interference characteristics with 802.11g routers, these alarming discoveries were made. Draft-N routers that featured chipsets by Airgo, Broadcom and Marvell had serious problems communicating with 802.11 b/g routers because they would jam transmissions of these legacy products. The problem was particularly pronounced using Airgo chipsets and were described as completely obliterating any 802.11 b/g router in the vicinity. The interference problems were less significant with Broadcom and Marvell. Metalink products weren't tested.


Getting Out of the Jam

The best advice for someone wishing to prevent being jammed by noisy neighborhood routers using the wireless draft-N would be to upgrade to 802.11a at 5GHz. The 2.4 - 2.5GHz bands are getting overcrowded with interference and are best avoided.802.11n has a ton of potential, but in the meantime there is a world of potential hurt as these unfinalized products hit the streets.

Special Thanks to www.HomeTheaterFocus.com

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About the author:

Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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