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Lucent to offer new wireless technology

Lucent Technologies announces technology that will allow consumers and small businesses to wireless connect PCs, printers and other peripherals while sharing one Net connection.

Lucent Technologies is betting that people will soon want a wireless Internet connection everywhere: at home, at work and even at the airport.

The communications equipment maker today said it will ship in late March a family of high-speed wireless networking kits. The technology supports both Microsoft Windows-based PCs and Apple Computer models.

"They're covering all aspects of the wireless market: the home, businesses and public spaces," said Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Mike Wolf. "You can take your laptop home, at work. You can take it anywhere, and if they have the same Lucent equipment, you can access the Internet."

Controlling the airwaves chart Lucent--which made a splash last year by including wireless technology in Apple's iBook notebook computer--and Proxim Technologies, are two of the early leaders in the crowded, but emerging, wireless market.

Sales are expected to grow from $771 million in 1999 to $2.2 billion in 2004, according to market researcher Cahners In-Stat.

Other competitors include Nortel Networks and Cabletron Systems, and new players such as 3Com and Cisco Systems, which recently bought Aironet Wireless Communications to enter the market. Dell Computer today also announced plans to sell its own wireless technology in its notebook computers.

Lucent, which last fall released wireless networking kits for large businesses, today announced new technology that will allow consumers and small businesses to wireless connect their PCs, printers and other peripherals while sharing a single Internet connection.

Dubbed "Orinoco," the new wireless PC cards have radio transmitters and receivers built-in, and a piece of hardware that connects the PCs to an Internet connection--whether it's a high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable-based connection. The hardware technology, called a "residential gateway," also has a built-in 56-kilobit per second (kbps) modem that plugs into a phone line.

Lucent executives said the new PC cards include easy-to-use software for people to install the wireless network.

The company also released new wireless technology, called Orinoco AS-1000 Access Server, which will give people secure wireless Internet access in public places, such as airports and convention centers, and businesses and schools, such as a library.

The goal is to allow laptop users with the same wireless PC card to be able to connect to the Net, check email and access the corporate network anywhere, said Angela Champness, a Lucent product manager for wireless products.

But with the stiff competition, compatibility between all the different wireless technologies is still an issue. Lucent, 3Com, Cabletron, Cisco, Nokia and others are supporting a standard called 802.11B, which sends data at 11 megabits per second (mbps).

But while companies like 3Com and Lucent are supporting 802.11B for both the home and business markets, other companies like Proxim, Intel and Compaq are supporting different wireless standards in the home and corporate market. Intel, for example, is supporting 802.11B in the corporate market, but a different wireless standard called HomeRF for the home--and the two are not compatible.

Depending on the wireless kits consumers buy, analysts say people may end up with wireless technologies that are not compatible. Champness said a consortium of companies that support the 802.11B standard are conducting tests to ensure they're products are compatible.

"Our vision is to guarantee interoperabilty," she said. "That means 3Com, (Cisco's) Aironet and a Lucent PC card will work together."