Linksys, Netgear Tout MIMO Technology At CES


At CES, Linksys, owned by San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems, released a new wireless router and PC card adapter based on MIMOor multipleinput, multiple outputtechnology. Meanwhile NetGear, Santa Clara, Calif., unveiled plans to release MIMO-enabled routers and adapters by the end of the first quarter. Two weeks after CES, D-Link Systems, Fountain Valley, Calif., also jumped on the MIMO bandwagon, announcing plans for its MIMO-supported router and adapter later this month.

MIMO differs from existing wireless signaling technology. It uses parallel broadcasting through two radio transmitter and three receiver antennas so a user can send and receive many wireless signals simultaneously. This increases bandwidth, speed and range of the connection, said Tim Thornton, director of product marketing at Linksys, Irvine, Calif.

Most wireless networks use 802.11b or 802.11g standards, which both operate on the 2.4GHz radio frequency. As office and home WLANs become more pervasive, that frequency gets increasingly crowded with signals, as well as with interference from common household items such as baby monitors and cordless phones, which also operate on the frequency, Thornton said.

MIMO solves the problem by allowing multiple radio transmissions to occur simultaneously. The technology also uses reflective signals that would normally cause interference to actually help create a stronger signal. MIMO sends more than one signal over the same channel and uses complex algorithms to identify signals that might be causing interference so they can be sent to the right client, Thornton said.

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MIMO will be available in routers and wireless cards, and solution providers said both are important.

"[MIMO] really has to be on both ends [of the signal]," said Don McKay, vice president of solution provider Alden Associates, Redmond, Wash. "If you have it on one end it helps a little bit, but on the other end it has to be there for [the best performance]."

Linksys' MIMO products, the Speed and Range Expansion (SRX) router and PC card for clients, support 802.11g. The router is priced at $199 and the card costs $129, Thornton said.

While Linksys built its MIMO technology in-house, NetGear is partnering with Video54, Mountain View, Calif., for its MIMO products, called RangeMax.

The products will be based on Video54's BeamFlex technology and will use seven antennas to send radio signals in place of the standard three antennas of MIMO. The extra antennas give NetGear's MIMO products better throughput ability, particularly for video streaming, which Video54's technology is optimized for, said Vivek Pathela, senior director of product marketing at NetGear.

Pathela said NetGear will unveil pricing and details on the products when they are released later this quarter.

Increasing vendor support for MIMO is good news, solution providers said.

"Signal and range is always a concern with wireless networks," said David Naiman, president of Davco Business Computer Solutions, Laguna Niguel, Calif. "[MIMO] will help my clients and my business."

However, MIMO may just be a short-term fix. Once the IEEE finalizes the 802.11n standard, being developed to solve a lot of the bandwidth and range problems of current wireless standards, many of the advancements of MIMO technology will be included, Thornton said. "If you have an 802.11g [MIMO] product, you'll have to move on to 802.11n later."