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Wireless N is Here

It's not official yet, but you can get faster Wi-Fi now.

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This story appears in the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Wi-Fi is on the move again--this time to 802.11n--compliant adapters offering up to three times the throughput of their MIMO-enhanced 802.11g predecessors. The "n" specification won't get final ratification until 2007, but as with prior Wi-Fi generations, equipment makers aren't waiting for the starter's gun. You'll already find routers and PC card adapters from the usual suspects at very competitive prices. The principal advantage of this early wave is the real-world throughput they should achieve. For example, the 150Mbps data rate of Belkin's $150 (all prices street) N1 router family is about three times that of its predecessor. Coverage quality within optimum range (1,400 feet) should be on par with pre-n adapters equipped with MIMO antenna schemas, but reception should be much better than plain-Jane 802.11g adapters.

Likewise, Buffalo Technology has launched its $179 Air-Station Nfiniti Wireless Router and Access Point with similar performance characteristics, and Netgear has introduced the $179 RangeMax NEXT Wireless Router with a 10/100 Ethernet switch--there's also a version with a gigabit switch. Also check comparable adapters from D-Link and Linksys. Early 802.11n draft products don't guarantee interoperability between brands-yet. You may want to stick with products from the same manufacturer. But vendors say interoperability issues should be minimal, and conforming to the final 802.11n specification should take little more than a firmware upgrade.

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