Is it time to upgrade your wireless network?

Washington, Oct 10 (DPA) If you go shopping today for any type of wireless computing device, ask yourself these questions:

Q: Do I have to purchase draft 802.11n products from the same company?

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A: You probably know that to get faster wireless Internet and network access, all of the devices within your wireless network should be capable of operating at the same speed. That means that your router, notebook cards, and any PCI desktop wireless cards should be draft 802.11n.

But it should not be necessary that the products come from the same manufacturer. In fact, a primary goal of a “standard” such as 802.11n is interoperability among products from various manufacturers.

Q: In my home I have a Netgear 802.11g router. Will a wireless PCI card that’s labelled Draft 802.11n/g/b give me faster speeds with this router?

A: No. Even if the wired Internet speed coming into your home is faster than the fastest speeds offered by the wireless standard 802.11g – and most are – the top speed of the router will limit how much data your draft 802.11n wireless card can accept.

Q: Is it safe to assume that any draft 802.11n product I purchase today will be upgradeable to the 802.11 final specifications?

A: No. Since 802.11n is a standard that’s not yet been fully ratified, any product you find on the market will be labelled “draft 802.11n.” That means the products conform to the draft specification, and this specification may change.

Few manufacturers currently are promising complete upgradeability of their products once the final 802.11n wireless specification is published. If you find one that does, that may be the product to go for.

Q: Dell is offering draft 802.11n network cards pre-installed on their notebook computers. Are these guaranteed to work with the 802.11n final products?

A: The current 802.11n draft notebook cards that Dell offers are only guaranteed to work with current draft N networking products, not final draft N products. Thus there is a possibility that the current wireless draft N solutions provided by Dell will not operate at full 802.11n speeds once the standard is ratified.

The 802.11n draft wireless solutions that Dell and other notebook makers offer, however, are backward compatible with current 802.11 a, b, and g networking standards, so it’s unlikely that a notebook equipped with an 802.11n draft card will become unusable in the future.

Q: Is there a difference between “pre N” and “draft N” wireless routers?

A: Most equipment you see in stores today will say “draft N.” “Pre N” equipment came to market first, even before a draft standard was ratified. There were lots of compatibility issues with pre N equipment, so you’ll want to avoid that.

— Have a computer question? Send it to the Computer Helper at [email protected].