Belkin looks to speed Wi-Fi products with Airgo tech

Companies say Airgo chipset in Belkin peripherals will quadruple speeds and range currently found in 802.11g products.

Peripherals maker Belkin will use Airgo Networks' wireless-networking technology in some of its consumer Wi-Fi products, as it looks to give customers what they want: More speed.

The companies will announce the deal Monday; terms were not disclosed. A router and a client card from Belkin, equipped with wireless networking chipsets from Airgo Networks, will be able to quadruple the speeds and range currently available from 802.11g products, the companies said.

The gear is designed to let consumers wirelessly connect to a network to share resources, such as a broadband Internet connection. Products based on 802.11g chips have optimal transfer speeds of 54 megabits per second within a range of 150 feet, but more realistically, rates are around half that.


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The Belkin products will be available in mid-October and will have list prices of $179 for the router and $129 for the client card.

The faster speeds and farther reach of the Belkin gear are meant to capitalize on a traditional shift in the market--when greater speed and reach are available, consumers flock to them, according to Synergy Research analyst Aaron Vance.

"We saw it when 802.11g became available: The overall market shifted to 802.11g from 802.11b," said Vance. The 802.11b standard allowed for transfer rates of up to 11mbps in a range of up to 150 feet--the reality was around half that.

Belkin is quickly jumping on Airgo's technology, based on MIMO (short for multiple input, multiple output), to set itself apart from its competitors and target the audience most likely to buy the latest gear, consumers, according to Vance.

Airgo's technology is compatible with Wi-Fi standards, such as 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11a, but to reach the highest speeds, consumers will have to use routers and client cards based on Airgo's MIMO technology. Belkin's products will be compatible with only 802.11g and 802.11b standards. Wireless speeds can reach up to 108 megabits per second and offer longer ranges than those of competing products, according to Airgo.

"There's not a whole lot of differentiation in the low end of the market other than price, so companies are looking to integrate new technologies to pull in consumers and pick up a little more revenue if possible," said Vance.

Belkin holds the No. 6 worldwide market share position in revenue for Wi-Fi gear.

"This is just the first step," said Greg Raleigh, chief executive at Airgo. "This market tends to grow organically...consumers adopt technology in retail first, pressuring laptop makers to incorporate it in their products until enterprises have to support it in corporate networks."

Airgo's MIMO technology is one of two that is being considered by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' 802.11n working group as an industry standard. The other technology is being led by Intel, according to Raleigh.

Raleigh is confident that whatever technology the 802.11n standard is based on, Airgo's technology will be a part of it.

Faster wireless networks and those with a greater range have increasing implications in the growth of emerging technologies, such as VoIP and download services. The better the performance of wireless networks, the more reason consumers will use services on the networks, according to analysts.

Airgo is already working on the next generation of its wireless networking technology, which will be completed in six months and, according to the company, will allow transfer rates of up to a quarter of a gigabyte per second.

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