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There’s no doubt that the 802.11n standard has caused more controversy than any other wireless specification. Originally put forward for informal investigation way, way back in 2003 there have since been massive arguments which culminated in May this year with the first working draft being unceremoniously dumped when a sponsor ballot returned less than half the votes in favour of it. To become a final draft with the potential to make it through to ratification it needed at least 75 per cent of the votes.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the inevitable rush of so-called draft-n products and Buffalo Technology claims a first to market in the UK with its AirStation Nfiniti product family. These use the latest Broadcom Intensi-fi chip which has been designed to cater particularly to the demands for video, voice and music over high-speed wireless networks. It employs a number of technologies and along with MIMO (multiple in multiple out) it is capable of using multiple channels to transmit two streams of data. Called spatial streams, these each comprise 20MHz channels which can be bonded together to create a 40MHz pipeline.
This sounds great except that the 2.4GHz band has room for three non-overlapping channels so with the Nfiniti blasting away at top speed it doesn’t leave much room for many other devices to transmit. The Intensi-fi chip aims to overcome this with intelligent dynamic management which Broadcom coins its ‘good neighbour’ mode. Essentially, if the Nfiniti detects other devices such as legacy products trying to transmit in its vicinity it will drop back to 20MHz channels to create some wireless space for them. Performance claims are impressive with 300Mbit/sec being quoted for dual channel products and an amazing 600Mbps for the proposed quad spatial streams which will presumably operate in the 5GHz band.
And so to the Nfiniti router, which is an unassuming slab of plastic topped of with three adjustable, but non-removable, aerials. You get the standard quad of Fast Ethernet LAN ports at the back while the WAN connection is handled by a fifth Fast Ethernet port, meaning that the unit can accept external cable or ADSL modems. The web interface is common to most of Buffalo’s wireless routers and opens with a quick access page to common settings including port mapping, the SPI firewall, intrusion detection, wireless security and an Internet access wizard. The Advanced option provides full access to all LAN, WAN and wireless parameters and administration and diagnostics pages. The wireless setup page now has a few extra goodies as you can elect to use 20MHz channels, go for the full 40Mhz channel bonding and opt for using channels at the lower or upper end of the 2.4GHz spectrum.
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