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New Wi-Fi lands in home LAN gear

Gear maker Belkin starts offering updates in order to mesh its wireless home networking range with the newly approved 802.11g standard, one of the first companies to do so for customers.

Belkin has updated its wireless local area networking gear in order to meet the newly approved 802.11g specification, one of the first major networking equipment providers to do so.

The Compton, Calif.-based company, which sells PC accessories and networking equipment aimed at the mass market, said Monday that it is offering the upgrades for its 54g wireless LAN line. The 802.11g specification, which is compatible with mainstream 802.11b technology but offers faster transmission speeds, was approved as a standard by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) last Thursday.

Wireless LANs have exploded in popularity over the past few months, with equipment shipments totaling 19.5 million units in 2002, up from 8.9 million the previous year, according to new figures from Gartner. The appearance of wireless Internet hot spots in public areas such as coffee shops and airports has helped the success of Wi-Fi.

Most manufacturers have been offering 802.11g-based hardware for weeks or months. Apple Computer's AirPort Extreme wireless LAN products, for example, are based on the 802.11g draft specification and have been shipping since the beginning of this year.

All major wireless LAN gear providers have said they will be offering software upgrades for their products based on the draft 802.11g specification. The biggest companies in the niche are Linksys, D-Link, Buffalo Technology Symbol Technology and Proxim, according to Gartner.

But Belkin's 802.11g products are among the first to become available to users. The company has updated its new 54g products to be 802.11g-compliant. The upgrades are available from its Web site.

Compliance with the finalized 802.11g specification is needed to ensure compatibility with other manufacturers' equipment.

802.11g's main benefit is a theoretical maximum throughput of 54mbps, compared with 11mbps for 802.11b.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.