Monday, Jun 16, 2003
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By Anand Parthasarathy
The standards body of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has on Friday ratified the new standard called "802.11g'' which raises the top speed of wirelessly accessing the Internet or connecting computing devices to a theoretical 54 megabits per second. The earlier standard 802.11b peaked at 11 MBPS.
India was one of the early nations to legalise WiFi and open up the 2.4 GHz radio frequency to unlicensed use for short distance wireless communication, in November last year. But like most others who took a head start in harnessing ways to "unwire the Web" India now feels the effect of the adage: "If it works, it's obsolete''. Even as device makers like Intel are still touting their technology like Centrino to bring wireless connectivity to hand-held and portable computers, the procedural hurdles to kick speeds five-fold have been removed. In fact, many canny manufacturers, had made their WiFi offerings "dual standard", in anticipation of this week's ratification by IEEE.
From specialist device makers like Maxim (who make integrated circuits for wireless cards) to Apple Computers (whose AirPort wireless card was the first dual-speed device) they have "hedged their bets" and can now seamlessly ride the high-speed wireless wave.
Experts warn that the touted speeds can rarely be achieved in practice and that 802.11g users will be lucky to achieve 20 megabits per second in a sustained manner. But the difference will still be palpable because as early Indian users of Wireless hotspots in Indian star hotels have found, the current 802.211b systems only deliver about 3-5 MBPS on a good day.
The lucky ones are those who decided on a "wait and watch" policy after WiFi was legalised in India they could now leapfrog to the higher speed regime which begins today.
But there is good news too for those who have invested in wireless add-on cards for their laptops or PC based on yesterday's standard: 802.11g is backward compatible with 802.11b that is like saying your DVD drive will also play CDs but not vice versa.
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