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Airgo wins Wi-Fi following

Customers wooed with technology allowing them to hit up to 108mbps.

Wireless networking start-up Airgo Networks has lined up new customers and partners wooed by its next-generation Wi-Fi gear.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company on Monday plans to announce it has signed on Sohoware and Planex as distribution customers and Askey and Taiyo Yuden as manufacturing partners. Sohoware will sell wireless networking equipment based on Airgo's True MIMO (multiple input multiple output) technology to large businesses. Products using the upstart's chips are expected to hit the market in July.

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Airgo's MIMO technology allows transfer rates of up to 108 megabits per second (mbps) and offers longer ranges than those of competing products, according to the company. Current 802.11g-based networks have a theoretical output of 54mbps, although that average is roughly half at a distance of several hundred feet, depending on the environment.

"With faster rates and longer distances, companies will need fewer access points to cover the same area than they do with currently available gear," said Greg Raleigh, chief executive of Airgo.

New wireless services, such as voice over IP and streaming video, are likely to be available sooner on networks that have faster speeds and longer ranges.

Airgo's technology also allows multiple signals to be sent out and received on a network, according to Craig Mathias, an analyst with research firm Farpoint Group.

Raleigh said that because more than one signal in a single radio channel is used, and the different signals carry different data, more information can be communicated. For businesses, this can mean fewer equipment installations.

Airgo's chips are compatible with current 802.11 standards. To achieve the 108mbps rate, client cards based on Airgo chips must be used with access points that also use the company's processors.

MIMO technology is the front runner for being the basis for the next 802.11 standard, called 802.11n. But the completion of that standard, as well as products based on 802.11n, are not due until late this year at the earliest.

Products using pre-draft versions of the specification, such as those from Sohoware and Planex, will be available later this year. Planex will target small to medium-size businesses.