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What's up with 802.11G?

In our first ever weekly column, Cameron "Mr.Tweak" Wilmot talks about the new and exciting unofficial 802.11G wireless standard and if it is all it is cracked up to be.

| Editorials in Networking | Posted: Oct 13, 2003 4:00 am

Welcome to the first ever weekly column here at TweakTown. Before I enter my first topic on 802.11G wireless, let me tell you a little about our weekly columns.

 

Over the past few months we've gathered together a bunch of industry experts, PR people (such as Scott from ABIT), various journalists (such as Mike from The Inquirer), members from the TweakTown staff and all those kinds of people who will all give you their important and influential takes on the IT industry each week in their very own weekly columns here at TweakTown.

 

Anything which the community must know about, the select columnists will be sure to let you know - be it good, bad or down right ugly for those parties involved. They have been given the freedom to talk about whatever they wish - without limitation or editorial influence - and we'll make sure you hear about it, no matter how many people it may annoy or destroy. But it's not all about total and utter destruction; each columnist will give their take on various new products or services, trends in certain markets or at times just something which the writer has on his or her chest which is eating at them. You get the idea, on with the subject title!

 

Last week we received Belkin's entire range of 802.11G wireless equipment including router, access point, PCI and notebook cards - it was our first taste of the new, exciting and unofficial 802.11G wireless standard which is still a few months away from becoming a confirmed standard. It was also my first time working with Belkin gear, and the initial impression was good - quality and style was all there in abundance. After getting all the gear setup in just a few minutes, in our fairly large unit in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, it was time to see just what the unofficial 802.11G wireless standard was capable of delivering. Keep in mind the standard is rated for 55Mbit, while the official 802.11B standard is rated only for 11Mbit. Now you know the rating figures, we can move on.

 

 

Frankly, right now, things don't look terribly good for the 802.11G standard as far as transfer speeds go. Our tests showed at best and at very close range (1ft or less) with no obstructions, the Belkin 54G wireless equipped hardware was only capable of performing at less than half its advertised speed - around 21Mbit average, 33Mbit less than what the 802.11G standard is rated for and what Belkin claim on their packaging - which right now, is false. This gives us around 2.6MB/s to play with - whilst workable for LAN movie streaming and Internet surfing, for file transfers - it's simply horrid based on the near 6.6MB/s we expected from 802.11G which is currently offering us about 4MB/s less than stated at short range distance. Although, keep in mind the low 2.6MB/s average which we achieved was still twice as fast as what 802.11B can offer.

 

When we hit long range (around 30ft through about three walls), we aren't even able to break over 8Mbit - a staggering 46Mbit under spec or almost seven times slower. This gives us an average of about 995KB/s of bandwidth to play with which is hardly enough to stream a movie and surf the Internet at the same time without running into problems which radio signals typically face periodically.

 

So far the numbers don't paint a very good story for the new born 802.11G standard. Initially and based only off the Belkin equipment we used (however, after speaking to various retailers, they all tell us the same disappointing story about other 802.11G brand hardware) it's obvious to see the standard needs a lot of work before it will take off and sell in any quantity. Though in Belkin's defense, they did include a small piece of paper in the package mentioning that improvements to the 802.11G standard will occur over the coming months. The network company claims that their 802.11G hardware is capable of performing "virtually 5x faster than Wi-Fi (802.11B)" when it was only capable of performing at best 2x faster.

 

In my first weekly column I have proved 802.11G is NOT five times faster than 802.11B. Right now it is only around two times faster - at the best of times. So buyers beware, I suggest you wait some time before buying and wait for a company who can deliver real 54Mbit wireless LAN performance from an official 802.11G standard later on, most likely in the first half of 2004.

 

So, what's up with 802.11G? That I don't know, but I do know it needs a lot more work yet and companies should be much more cautious when going around claiming invalid transfer speeds.

 

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