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Europe could miss out on fast wireless

Antony Adshead
European users could miss out on the fast wireless networks that will become available in the US over the coming months

The first 50-100mbps wireless Lan equipment will ship from early next year in the US as equipment for the 802.11a wireless standard becomes available.

But whether the equipment will be available in Europe depends on the consent of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (Etsi), which has yet to ratify 802.11a because of potential interference with Nato satellites.

Proxim is to ship a range of products including the Harmony 802.11a Fastwireless Networking Kit and and 802.11a Access Point. The networking kit is available now in the US and the access point is due to ship there in November. 802.11a, the successor to 802.11b, offers bandwidths of about 50mbps, although Proxim said its 2X technology can double that to 100mbps.

802.11b is a rival to the Hiperlan 2 standard, backed by Ericsson and Nokia, which is already accepted by Etsi. This has caused industry watchers to fear a transatlantic wireless network split.

Both standards operate in the unlicensed 5GHz range but 802.11a uses an Ethernet-style listen-before-transmitting method, while Hiperlan allocates time slots to packets from a controller.

To try to prevent a split, Compaq, Intel and Microsoft have set up a group to investigate developing products for both standards.

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