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Band Aid

Dual-band adapters give the best of both worlds.

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This story appears in the February 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Ideally, dual-band Wi-Fi adapters let you run 802.11a and802.11b wireless networks side by side according to your need andbudget. The 54Mbps 802.11a is up to five times faster than802.11b-and about five times as expensive. Unfortunately, the twotechnologies' data transmissions don't mix. But newtransceivers from Intel and others for about $650 run 802.11a and802.11b networks side by side. Also, $125 to $160 dual-band PCcards from firms like D-Link let mobile users tap networks whereverthey go. "A is for halls, b is for walls," says mobileanalyst Ken Dulaney, referring to 802.11a, which works well in openspaces, vs. 802.11b, which is better at penetrating walls. 802.11bis fine for sending documents in an office, but 802.11a lets youbrowse the Web and download files in commercial hotspots.

Dulaney says dual adapters are here to stay, but networkingprotocols are not set in stone. Europe is demanding changes to802.11a, that could affect existing hardware. Then 802.11g rivaling802.11a's speeds could challenge the status quo. Expertsrecommend waiting until year-end 2003 for large-scale Wi-Fideployments.

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