Thursday, March 24, 2005

MIMO standards at war


Trend: New WiFi products may ignite MIMO definition war
MIMO technology is very much in the news these days, and not only because of the intense fight between the two warring camps, each relying on MIMO, over the specifications of 802.11n. A soon-to-be-released MIMO-based RangeMax WLAN kit from Netgear has again caused many to ask what exactly was the meaning of MIMO. Most MIMO chips on the market now come from Airgo, but Netgear chose chips from Video54 instead, leading Airgo to charge that Netgear's solution is not truly a MIMO product. This is not mere semantics: As the battle over MIMO-reliant 802.11n specifications intensifies, the last thing we need is to have that battle complicated further by skirmishes on the flanks over the precise definition of MIMO.

The differences between the two approaches are clear. Airgo makes the complete chipset for offerings by Belkin and Linksys. Netgear, in contrast, relies on its Atheros chips: Video54's BeamFlex chips are merely an overlay which can add MIMO to chips from other vendors. Airgo's products use spatial multiplexing (sending two radio signals in one channel); Netgear uses seven independent internal antennas which may be turned on and off, offering 128 routing patterns. Netgear says its technology give its products a range of 495 feet and a real throughput of up to 48 Mbps.

For more on the debate over MIMO:
- see Peter Judge's Computerworld discussion

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