US-based Airgo Networks today began sampling a WLAN chipset it claims can improve the speed, range and reliability of 802.11-based wireless networks.
The part, the AGN100, employs multiple antennae to boost, say, 802.11g from a maximum throughput of 54Mbps to 108Mbps, the company claims. The part also boosts 802.11a and 802.11b.
Testing conducted by Airgo showed the chipset had a range two to six times further than rival WLAN chipsets.
The chipset uses a technique called Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO), developed by Airgo's founders at Stanford University. Essentially, the system spreads traffic across multiple standard-speed WLAN channels, boosting overall performance. Improved signal processing yields the superior range. Spatial multiplexing schemes put the data back together again. Performance increases proportionally with the number of antennae built into the system. MIMO uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), the basis
802.11g, like 802.11a, is itself based on OFDM technology. 802.11b is based on a technique called complementary code keying (CCK). It's not clear whether Airgo's system doubles 802.11b performance - certainly the company only refers to the slower spec. when it's talking about backward compatibility, not boosted performance.
That said, with the market shifting to 802.11g, it arguably makes sense to target that market, particularly since it's the clear choice of buyers willing to pay more for better network performance.
Airgo promises full compatibility with existing 802.11 kit, but it remains unclear whether the higher throughput the company claims its technology offers operates in environments that mix in non-Airgo based products.
The AGN100 comprises the AGN100BB broadband/MAC chip and a companion part, the AGN100RF radio chip. Says Airgo: "The chipset is built with a scalable architecture that allows manufacturers to implement single antenna systems using just one RF chip or increase performance by adding additional RF chips."
In short, to gain the benefits of the multiple antennae, vendors will need to implement extra chips, increasing the cost.
The AGN100 supports draft 802.11e quality of service specifications, and indeed Airgo is touting the technology as the basis for multimedia networks. It is targeting not only WLAN equipment makers, but consumer electronics companies looking to add network functionality to TVs, DVD players, Hi-Fi, game consoles and the like.
Airgo was founded in 2000, and remains privately held. It names Nokia's VC wing as one of its investors. Founders come not only from Stanford University but Clarity Wireless (now owned by Cisco) and Agere. ®