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Although 802.11a and 802.11b operate at different frequencies (5GHz and 2.4GHz, respectively), this has its advantages, and Intel is among the first to demonstrate that these two technologies can be complementary. Adding 802.11a to an 802.11b infrastructure helps you sidestep future interference problems in the crowded 2.4GHz band. Also, a dual-band access point gives clients on both 802.11b and 802.11a LANs a greater share of the total available bandwidth. An 802.11a radio can deliver speeds of up to 54Mbps, which is as much as five times faster than 802.11b and enough to handle data-intensive applications, large files, and true multimedia streaming video. The Intel Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point also supports eight nonoverlapping channels in addition to three for 802.11b. By placing eight access points in a given coverage area, you can provide up to 465Mbps of bandwidth.
Simple yet powerful
The $649 Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point is not much bigger than a paperback novel. The entire package contains the access point, a mounting bracket, a power supply and cord, a CD bearing software and product documentation, and a quick-setup guide. Hardware installation amounts to selecting the right location, plugging in the power cord, and snapping in an Ethernet cable. If you need help, the CD-ROM contains the adapter manual, the access-point manual, and the LAN administrator's guide. All three are well organized, comprehensive, and fully searchable.
The Pro/Wireless 5000 series is clearly geared toward network professionals. The Web-based configuration pages let you tailor the device to your own office environment by making some fairly sophisticated adjustments. For example, you can fine-tune the transmission power, the data rate, the fragmentation threshold, the preamble length, and the beacon interval. The access point also supports 128-bit WEP encryption with 802.1x authentication and VPN compatibility.
Good results on both standards
In CNET Labs' tests, the Intel Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point performed admirably on both interfaces. Maximum practical throughput clocked in at 4.9Mbps for the 802.11b interface and 22.1Mbps for 802.11a. We also got good results for indoor range. With each interface fixed at its maximum data rate, we were able to stray about 100 feet for an 802.11b connection and around 45 feet for 802.11a. Much longer ranges are possible if you set the access point to automatically fall back to slower data rates as signal strength fades.
Intel backs the Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point with a three-year warranty, which is among the best in the industry. Tech support is available Monday thorough Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, but unfortunately, it's a toll call.
The Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point can carry a much heavier load than 802.11b solutions, and its 11 nonoverlapping channels will give you plenty of room to grow your network. While dual-band products are both new and pricey, they are a great way to increase the capacity and the speed of your wireless LAN.
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
|How we tested|
To test practical throughput rates, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot software as its benchmark. The clients and gateways were set up to transmit at short ranges and maximum signal strength. CNET Labs' response time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.