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A Step Sideways

It didn't take long for WLAN equipment vendors to realize that 11a-only products weren't going to kill off the still-growing 11b WLAN market. So about 6 months later, dual-band products started to appear. Unfortunately, although the Atheros dual-band CardBus client design had killer 11b performance, the first dual-band APs and routers out of the chute didn't have second-generation 11a radios. Too bad, too, because I loved the NETGEAR WAB501's 11b radio performance in my review, but didn't see any difference in 11a performance from my earlier 11a-only testing, as shown in Figure 4.

NETGEAR HR314 and WAB501 802.11a throughput

Figure 4: NETGEAR HR314 and WAB501 802.11a throughput
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

I should note that although Atheros' proprietary "Turbo" mode raised throughput above 30Mbps (!), it worked well only under strong signal conditions. Even worse, it actually made connection speeds worse (vs. running without "Turbo" enabled) as wireless clients moved away from the AP. With what now seemed like two strike-outs with two times at bat, 802.11a seemed destined to sit on the bench as sales of 802.11b gear continued to grow like crazy.

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