- Proxim this week began shipping the industry's first high-speed IEEE 802.11a wireless LAN product, an interface card for laptops and other computers that offers data throughput of as much as 100Mbit/s.
The card, part of Proxim’s Harmony product line, has an 802.11a radio that works in the 5 GHz band. It is based on the CardBus format, the 32-bit version of the PC Card standard, and provides the IEEE maximum data rate of 54Mbit/s. But Proxim has also upped the data rate via proprietary software, called 2X, that boosts maximum throughput to 100Mbit/s, according to the company's statement. The card uses the Atheros Communications AR5000 chipset for the radio link.
By comparison, today's 802.11b wireless LAN products, in the 2.4 GHz band, have a maximum throughput of 11Mbit/s, but actual throughput for users typically ranges between 5M and 6Mbit/s.
The higher bandwidth of the 11a products promises to let users share large images, spreadsheets, graphics and similar files with a performance similar to, or in some cases even greater than, wired LANs.
As of now, Proxim is releasing only the network interface cards, meaning that computers equipped with them can create an ad hoc wireless network among themselves, but are unable to link wirelessly to a corporate LAN. In November, Proxim will release an 802.11a wireless access point to enable such LAN connectivity. The access point will act as a hub for multiple wireless clients and attach via cable to an existing wired Ethernet LAN.
The Harmony 802.11a CardBus card is available now for $US249. The Harmony 802.11a FastWireless Networking Kit, which includes two cards, a driver disk for Microsoft Windows 2000, a quickstart guide and documentation to create an ad hoc wireless network, costs $US449.
The card price represents a dramatic decrease compared with earlier analyst expectations for 802.11a wares (Faster wireless LANs may prove a bargain). The new card is still priced at a premium, however, compared with the lower-bandwidth 802.11b cards, which can cost less than $US100.