April 14, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
FAQ: Wi-Fi alphabet soup
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Do consumers really need dramatic increases in throughput over wireless networks?
Sharing broadband Internet access represents the top application for Wi-Fi networks in the consumer market. Since broadband connections typically perform well below 802.11b data transfer speeds, increased speeds offered by newer specifications such as 802.11g and MIMO do not yet mean much for consumers.
The question is most relevant for MIMO, which offers substantially higher speeds than any approved Wi-Fi standard. Manufacturers initially played up MIMO's role for multimedia applications, saying consumers would want to watch videos or play music streamed from a central home device. So far, those devices have failed to take off. More recently, device makers have touted MIMO-based products for their increased range.
What is WiMax? Will it replace Wi-Fi?
WiMax, similar to Wi-Fi, is a logo marking interoperability between products using a standard approved by the IEEE--802.16-2004. However, unlike Wi-Fi, WiMax makes wireless broadband Internet access directly available and is viewed as an alternative to high-speed cable and digital-subscriber lines. Wi-Fi products create wireless networks allowing those who can connect to the networks to share resources, such as an Internet connection or a printer.
WiMax is essentially radio technology that promises to deliver two-way Internet access at speeds of up to 75mbps at long range. Its backers claim that WiMax can transmit data up to 30 miles between broadcast towers and can blanket areas more than a mile in radius.
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