The ease and convenience of wireless networking continues to attract more home and small-office/home-office (SOHO) users. As wireless-networking products drill further down into the consumer population, however, they must fulfill some different and additional needs. For instance, nontechnical people are now purchasing and installing wireless-networking equipment. As a result, the network installation process must be made easier and more intuitive. On the other end of the spectrum, many early, knowledgeable wireless-network adopters are now looking for better performance and features.
To meet these varied requests and demands, manufacturers are fine-tuning their wireless-networking products. For examples, look to U.S. Robotics (www.usr.com) and Parkervision, Inc. (www.parkervision.com). The Wireless Network Starter Kit from U.S. Robotics promises to make it easy for consumers and SOHO users to set up a wireless network anytime, anywhere. In contrast, Parkervision's SignalMAX products target consumers who are seeking maximum wireless distance connectivity for their cable and DSL modems.
The Wireless Network Starter Kit from U.S. Robotics comes with an 802.11g, 54-Mbps wireless-USB adapter and an 802.11g, 54-Mbps wireless router that installs in three simple steps. The USB adapter is lightweight and easily transportable. To make a wireless connection to the router, this device simply plugs into any available USB (2.0 or 1.1) port of a desktop or notebook computer. The adapter is compatible with both laptop and desktop PCs. It eliminates the need to open the computer's case or use any tools. Users can then share secure Internet access, files, and peripherals with other computers on the network.
Both the U.S. Robotics adapter and the router are compatible with all 54-Mbps 802.11g and 11-Mbps 802.11b wireless devices. The equipment comes with a built-in firewall to protect against hackers. It also includes support for web-site blocking, MAC-address authentication, 64-/128-b WEP encryption, and WPA. To support other wired devices, the router features an integrated four-port 10/100 Ethernet switch.
As U.S. Robotics simplifies the network setup process, ParkerVision is looking to increase the range of such networks. Its initial SignalMAX products consist of four-port wireless routers, notebook cards, and USB adapters. The products are compatible with all 802.11b/g-compliant products. According to the company, they will improve distance and eliminate "dead zones" even when they're used with other manufacturers' gear. When SignalMAX notebook or desktop cards are utilized with SignalMAX routers, one-mile open-field-distance performance is achieved. The company guarantees coverage of an entire home without repeaters, boosters, or special high-gain antennas.
The U.S. Robotics and ParkerVision products are just a sampling of the wireless-networking kits that are available today. They represent some of the innovations that manufacturers are adding to products in order to meet consumer demands. As more consumers become wireless-network users, improvements in security, ease of use, and other areas will steadily increase.