Intel Communications Group today demonstrated the UK's first wireless local area network (Wlan) over the 802.11a standard at London Fashion Week.
The preferred standard in the US has courted controversy in Europe, where the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) prefers the rival HiperLAN2.
Because 802.11a operates in the 5GHz radio spectrum it was also feared that deployment would interfere with satellite operators and emergency services, but Intel says it has resolved this issue.
Speaking at the exhibition, David Bradshaw, of Intel's Wlan division, explained that the addition of transmit power control and dynamic frequency selection would enable signals to move around in the spectrum and avoid conflict with other messages.
"HiperLAN2 clearly doesn't have a future with the US adopting the standard and the UK and The Netherlands governing bodies keen on 802.11a," he said. "We anticipate 802.11a being approved in the UK within six months and by the end of the year by ETSI."
The current 802.11b standard supplies just 11Mbps data rates and only three access points can work together in close proximity, but 802.11a should allow 54Mbps data flows and up to eight access points working closely.
The group demonstrated the 802.11b standard alongside 802.11a to show how the two would complement each other. The wireless fidelity industry standard, WiFi 5, is due to be agreed by the industry players ensuring that all PCI cards and access points are interoperable, regardless of vendor.
Terry Sullivan, of streaming specialist Sullivan Associates, maintained that several bodies had been waiting for 802.11a. "We're seeing growing interest from airports for security reasons, for example, and media and surveillance groups," he said.
But analysts insisted that they would rather see 802.11a wait, as conflicting standards could restrict the development of Wlans.
"802.11a stands a better chance of being adopted than HiperLAN, and big players like Ericsson seem to be making moves away from that standard," said Ross Pow, managing director of research house Analysys. "From a public Wlan point of view, though, I would like to see 802.11b become established first as the two could conflict."
Analysys reckons that, by 2006, the money spent globally on public Wlan equipment will exceed £1.83bn.
Intel is already shipping 802.11a PCI cards in the US at around $150 a piece and access points at $500 each, but the company acknowledges that security concerns have to be addressed.
"We will shortly see a new version of the wired equivalent privacy protocol, WEP2, which will be greatly enhanced, and in six to nine months' time we will see even more sophisticated protocols," said Bradshaw.
"The utopia for Intel would be to put GPRS, 802.11a, b and g in one client connectivity silicon, but that's one to two years away still," he concluded.
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