Consumer show meets networked world

LAS VEGAS — Beyond the high-end home theater speaker systems, paper shredders, advanced sewing machines and electrical adapters, last month’s Consumer Electronics Show 2005 was, at least in part, about taking networks to the next level.

CES is a gigantic laboratory of 2,400 vendors trying to figure out what you can do with a world of digitized information. Some of the most advanced wireless network technologies were on display, including multiple input multiple output (MIMO) and ultrawideband (UWB).

MIMO is the basis of the next IEEE WLAN standard, 802.11n, which will have a minimum throughput of more than 100Mbps. UWB will appear later this year in products that create a wireless USB connection among a plethora of devices such as PCs, flat plasma screens and media servers.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Athena Semiconductor Inc. demonstrated the effects of their just-announced jointly developed MIMO product: a single integrated circuit that incorporates three transceivers. The demonstration transmitted two high-definition TV streams and one standard-definition videostream over a link that maintained a consistent throughput of more than 50Mbps.

Cisco Systems Inc.’s Linksys announced a wireless 802.11g router and client PC card based on Airgo Networks Inc.’s MIMO chipset. The chipset package uses two radios, three antennas and Airgo’s algorithms to boost 802.11g range by up to three times, and throughput by up to eight times.

A conventional 802.11g access point has a data rate of 54Mbps but useable throughput in the range of 18Mbps to 24Mbps. It reaches about 300 feet, although throughput drops as distance increases. Nearly two dozen companies showcased the rapidly evolving UWB wireless technology.

UWB transmits data at very low power, at an optimal range of about 12 feet, with throughput of about 400Mbps. One of the first uses likely will be to replace USB cables with a UWB wireless connection between PCs and peripheral devices. Another use is a wireless version of the FireWire 1394 standard, which defines a method for high-speed streaming video applications.

The Multiband OFDM Alliance — which includes chip makers, software developers and a pack of name-brand consumer electronics vendors — is promoting one version of UWB. Members say they expect products out by year-end, initially for wireless USB.

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