Linksys Launches Dual-Band Wi-Fi GearNew products include 802.11g/a cards for both notebooks and desktops.
Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service
With its eyes on the future of home entertainment and a relatively uncluttered band of radio spectrum, Cisco Systems' Linksys division this week unveiled a line of IEEE 802.11g/a wireless LAN products.
The devices, including a router and clients for both notebooks and desktops, can provide Wi-Fi connectivity over either of two unlicensed radio bands. The 2.4-GHz band, used by 802.11g, is also home to some cordless phones, microwaves, and other devices that can cause interference. The 802.11a technology uses spectrum in the 5.0-GHz band, where there is less competition from other devices and services.
Linksys, which Cisco acquired last year, launched the devices this week at an event in San Francisco to promote its aggressive move into what it sees as a burgeoning market for home networking. Also at the event, Linksys introduced a new video camera with a faster wireless LAN connection and unveiled a deal with Verizon Communications in which the carrier will provide Cisco VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) adapters to customers of its broadband telephony service.
802.11a Goes Home
Linksys sees 802.11a as the emerging home Wi-Fi technology as consumers begin using more demanding entertainment applications, such as streaming music and movies, Linksys President Charlie Giancarlo says. It has been used almost exclusively in enterprises, in part because of the relatively high cost of dual radios for networks that support both 802.11a and other Wi-Fi specifications.
Now, some consumer electronics vendors, such as Sony, are aiming at 802.11a for their coming wireless entertainment devices. Both its speed and its relatively "clean" spectrum band make it ideal for entertainment uses, Giancarlo says. Like 802.11g, 802.11a offers a theoretical maximum carrying capacity of 54 megabits per second, compared with 11 mbps for the earlier, widely deployed 802.11b technology.
Linksys's 802.11a/g products will ship in October with estimated list prices starting at $89 for a PC Card or PCI adapter. A USB adapter will cost $99 and a router will sell for $109. The PC Card and PCI adapter include WPA (Wireless Protected Access) security capability. All the devices will work with older 802.11b equipment as well.
Calling on Verizon
Under the deal with Verizon, the carrier will provide a Linksys PAP2 (Phone Adapter with 2 Phone Ports) free to VoiceWing customers. The PAP2 is an ATA (analog telephony adapter) with one Ethernet port for connection to a broadband router and a pair of phone ports for simultaneously using two phones for VoIP (or a phone and a fax).
Since Verizon introduced VoiceWing in July, it has been providing customers the older Cisco ATA 186, according to Michelle Swittenberg, executive director of consumer VoIP at Verizon. The PAP2 offers more features than the Cisco product, including the ability to add a second line and assign different ring tones for different callers. Swittenberg would not discuss adapter products from other vendors, but says the deal with Linksys is not exclusive.
Consumers can only get the PAP2 directly from Verizon, after signing up for the VoiceWing service. Verizon hopes within the next two years to begin providing another Linksys adapter that combines the ATA function with a router and selling it through retail channels, Swittenberg says. At this stage in VOIP use, most customers are early adopters who already have routers at home, she says.
Cisco may bring Wi-Fi and consumer VoIP together soon, Giancarlo said in an interview following the event. Cisco already has a Wi-Fi phone for enterprises.
"The real issue with getting it to the home is just getting the price to the right level," along with ruggedness and ease of use, Giancarlo says. He expects to see the first Wi-Fi VoIP phones in homes in the next 12 months.
The Linksys video camera introduced this week, the Wireless-G Internet Video Camera, uses 802.11g, an upgrade from its earlier 802.11b camera with more bandwidth, as well as an LCD to help consumers set up and use the product. It is available immediately for an estimated street price of $199.