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Actiontec Unveils 802.11a Wireless Card

Actiontec introduced its first 802.11a product earlier this month, along with two new 801.11b home networking access points and will have several additional product announcements at the International CES in Las Vegas next month.

The 802.11a Wireless Networking PC Card, shipping in January with a $149 suggested retail price, is one of the first on the market to use the new 802.11a wireless networking standard. The card works on the 5GHz band and has a data transfer rate of 54MB per second, up from the 2.4 Ghz, 11MB per second rate available from an 802.11b card, said Leslie Kirchman, Actiontec’s director of marketing. It will be joined in February by an 802.11a access point that is expected to cost about $400. This will enable it to network with a home PC that does not have a PC card.

The company’s two 802.11b introductions are both access points with one being targeted at homes and the other SKU for business environments. The home model, shipping this week with a $149 suggested retail price, connects to a home’s broadband connection and can be added onto an existing Ethernet home network, said Kirchman. The business unit, also $149 and shipping, works with the Linux operating system allowing companies to customize their wireless network to suit their needs.

Actiontec is also readying for the next wireless standard to be introduced, 802.11g.

The addition of this new specification to the mix will solve one problem, but possibly at the cost of creating customer confusion, Kirchman said. The “G” specification uses the 2.4Ghz band and the same 54MBps data transfer rate as the “A” models but, unlike the A types, is also backward compatible with the installed base of 802.11b home networks. One of the problems with the B and G is that they can be interfered with by certain cordless telephones and other household devices. By using the 5Ghz band the G models avoid this situation, but these cannot be used with B wireless networks.

One way this might play out is that B and G versions will end up in offices were there are few chances of interference happening, while A takes over in the home.

“There is also talk of an A/B access point that will work with both types to solve the compatibility issue,” Kirchman said.

Kirchman sees the various wireless networking developments tied to the assortment of wired home networking technologies now on the market, as further confusing customers. The average person does not know which technology is best suited for their need or simply does not realize that they are available so many people simply opt to not install a network, she said.