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The Great 802.11G+ Hardware Shoot-out,  . . . . . are claims fact or fiction?
April 2, 2004 by Zack Bryce, Tech Lab Mgr. and Keith Benicek

Much whoopla has been made of the newest of the 802.11x families since it’s introduction back in January of 2003. Apple and D-Link simultaneously announced 802.11G products in that month, but the Taiwanese manufacturer D-Link firmly beat Apple to the store shelves.

In fact, many companies claimed to be first, but some made mistakes trying to get theirs into your hands first. When the IEEE 802.11 (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Wi-Fi Alliance governing counsel devised the preliminary specifications for this new Wi-Fi implementation, the race to release an effective “G” chipset to the various manufactures was on. Broadcom, Atheros and Texas Instruments were the first to jump in with both feet.

Apple, trying to make good of their 2003 Macworld Expo SF announcement of the 802.11G Airport “Extreme” Base Station had chosen Broadcom, as Linksys also had to be their “G” chipset supplier. A few other “brands” later also chose the early Broadcom “G” chipset. (Most don’t actually make their own hardware, but only write a manufacturing “spec”, for a contract builder in Taiwan, China, Korea, or who-knows)

Broadcom apparently leaped before they should have, because for one reason or another their chipset design did not fully meet compatibility with the IEEE final preliminary or the ultimate “Certified” 802.11G specifications. Accusation flew between various chipset manufacturers. TI (Texas Instruments), who waited along with Atheros a bit longer for the Final Preliminary IEEE specs, released a white paper, which publicly reviled Broadcom and the brands that used their chipset as not being compatible with the 802.11G specifications.

“There is no need”, say technologists at Texas Instruments, “to have fast Wireless LAN nodes slow down to legacy speeds if a legacy user moves into the area. And the fact that current 802.11g "preliminary" chips from Broadcom have this defect, is Broadcom's fault for jumping the gun”, as reported by NewsWireless on 11/02/03

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Then in March 7, 2003 Research firm Gartner Inc. was warning company IT Departments to hold off on making investments in 802.11g wireless LAN technology until products can be properly certified by the nonprofit Wi-Fi Alliance. Jumping on the 802.11g bandwagon may result in interoperability problems with other 802.11g devices, as well as older 802.11b Wireless LAN technology (WLAN), Gartner said. Broadcom denied all the accusations as sniping by those that followed them to the market. bar
"....are they as fast as they claim? That’s what we wanted to ferret out...."
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When the newest phase of 802.11G non-standard technologies some call “Turbo” or “Super G” modes, which accelerate to 100 and 108 Mbps and more bandwidth hit the streets this Winter 2004, Broadcom fired some allegations back at Atheros and TI. Broadcom doesn’t as yet have an accelerated100+ mode available.

On 11/14/03, Broadcom claimed equipment made using the rival Atheros Communications chipset caused an enormous degradation in the speed of nearby 802.11b and 802.11g networks. "We've done the testing with both the NetGear product and the D-Link product, and proved that it is bad neighbor technology," says Jeff Abramowitz, Broadcom vice president of marketing. “Instead of the standard 54-Mbps throughput, nearby 802.11g networks even on different frequencies may deliver as little as 1 Mbps”

Atheros quickly dismissed Broadcom's claims. In its tests, the “Super G” mode causes no more performance problems with other devices on the same or non-overlapping channels than a comparable 802.11g device, says Craig Barratt, Atheros president and chief executive officer. D-Link spokespeople say internal tests of the company's XtremeG products, which use the Atheros chip, show only the same amount of degradation on neighboring networks that any nearby Wi-Fi network would cause. NetGear declined to comment for this story.

Since then, Broadcom has announced a new chipset, which is capable of 125 Mbps, but is as of now late again from it’s promised availability date of March 1st 2004. Also , the Conexent PRISM GT™ Nitro™ XM with PRISM DirectLink™ 802.11G chipset, previously GlobespanVirata and before that Intersil, is touted to be capable of 140 Mbps Bandwidth, but is also not actually available until late this year (2004).

All of these chipsets are supposed to be compatible with each other, and also compatible with 802.11b without ANY encumbrances. So are they. REALLY? And, are they as fast as they claim? That’s what we wanted to ferret out despite all the claims and accusations.

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