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Start-up: More is merrier on Wi-Fi nets

Network-infrastructure start-up Vivato says it's working on a new switch that allows for far more simultaneous users than most Wi-Fi wireless networks can handle.

Network-infrastructure start-up Vivato said Monday it's developing a new switch that can extend a Wi-Fi network's range from 300 feet to four miles and allow for far more simultaneous users than most wireless networks can handle.

The company said the new switch is aimed at businesses because networks that feature the switch will be able to host "thousands" of simultaneous users, over distances suitable to a large building or campus of buildings. With conventional gear, Vivato said, every floor of an office building requires its own Wi-Fi network, and most networks bog down after more than 20 users sign on.

Wi-Fi is the name given an emerging wireless-networking technology. In-Stat/MDR researchers have said that by 2005, more than 55 million Wi-Fi-based wireless networks will be in homes and offices.

Vivato is the latest in a long line of companies that have sought to extend the range of Wi-Fi networks. ArrayComm, Nokia, Navini Networks, Flarion, Motorola and others have introduced similar products based on Wi-Fi, though those products haven't focused on increasing the number of simultaneous users.

Some products, such as Vivato's, are tailored for corporate users. Others, from Navini, for instance, are used to deliver broadband access to rural or remote areas ignored by traditional broadband companies.

Based on an updated version of technology developed in the 1950s, Vivato's new switch focuses wireless signals into tightly spun beams that travel up to 2,000 feet inside a building and four miles outdoors, a Vivato representative said.

Vivato did not say how much the gear would cost. The equipment will be available at the beginning of next year, the company said.