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Boost your home network beyond 14Mbps

Stuff things in your Christmas shockings
Mon Nov 28 2005, 06:25
JUST IN time for the holiday season and the onslaught of television shows available on-line are plenty of gadgets for boosting home network speeds above and beyond 10 to 14 Mbps - unless, of course, you've already pulled your own Cat 5. For the rest of us slackers, there are speed boosts in both wireless and powerline technology (PLT).

Netgear ( jumped the gun on the holiday season with not one, but two different products. The RangeMax 240 wireless router incorporates Airgo Network's third-generation MIMO chip set to deliver raw data rates of up to 240 Mbps; around 120 Mbps effective once the smoke clears. It also includes support for the WPA-2-PSK security and on-board hardware support for 128 bit AES, TTIP, and WEP. There's also built-in denial-of-service (DoS) attack protection and intrusion detection and prevention, plus some other widgets to support time-based usage controls and "trusted user" controls. The four-port router version of the RangeMax 240 will set you back $199 list while the notebook adaptor will list at $129.

If you aren't comfy with Wi-Fi being "secure," Netgear's second option is powerline technology in an 85 Mbps wall-plugged Ethernet switch, the XE104. First-generation PLT maxes out at a paltry 14 Mbps, so while it's not quite full up Fast Ethernet, it gets pretty close. And unlike wireless tech, PLT is relatively straight-forward: you plug it in, and it works, specifically, plug it into the wall and plug an Ethernet cable to it.

The XE104 includes a four-port Fast Ethernet hub, so it's likely to go over equally well in a small office environment as well as in the home. Available in 110 volt US or 220-volt for Europe, you'll need two of the gizmos to "extend" your network. One goes next to your broadband router, and the other goes next to wherever in the household you can find an electrical wall plug. List price for one is $99.99. Only drawback is the 85 Mbps Intellon-based design isn't a formal standard, so mixing-and-matching higher-speed PLT devices from other vendors is likely to be done at your own risk.

If you can wait until after the holidays, Panasonic will supposedly be showing and maybe shipping up to 170 Mbps PLT technology at CES in January. The company demoed its proprietary high-speed technology at this year's CES and also at more recent consumer shows in Japan. Will it meet the HomePlug AV standard? Don't know. <> For still higher-speeds in the PLT arena, HomePlug AV was finalized over the summer and products should be demoing at CES and shipping by next holiday season. The make-everybody-happy standard will support up to 200 Mbps raw data rates over home wiring, plus support for distributing HD TV signals, VoIP quality-of-service management, audio distribution, and the kitchen sink. The big picture vision is to build HomePlug AV into everything from PCs to TV sets and PVRs and even into the fridge and oven. In addition, HomePlug AV should/will have peaceful coexistence with broadband over powerline (BPL) and backwards compatibility with slow-ride 14 Mbps HomePlug 1.0 devices. µ


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