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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:46 GMT
Fast wireless web heads for Europe
Consumers like computing without wires
Going wireless is the next step for many
test hello test
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble
at CeBIT 2002 in Hanover
Technology to hook up personal computers over wireless links at up to five times the speed of current devices is on its way to Europe.

Wireless networks are becoming ever more popular as prices fall and both home and business users decide to shun some of the spaghetti that lives behind their machines.

But most devices available today run at a maximum speed of 11 megabits per second, a speed ordinary wired networks reached many years ago.

The new faster standard is called Wi-Fi5 and is awaiting final approval for use in Europe. Its imminent arrival has been promoted at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover.

Fuel stop

Wi-Fi5 add-on cards and built-in circuitry allow communication between PCs at up to 54 megabits per second.

"We think that this increase in speed will lead to people using wireless networks in different ways," Brian Grimm, communications director of the industry body that oversees the Wi-Fi standard, told BBC News Online.

"We'll have people downloading films or music in their cars while they stop for fuel," he said.

Wireless network sales so far divide roughly down the middle between sales to businesses and sales to home users.

Old and new

Home users are tending to use the technology to move around their homes with laptops or link two home PCs together without running ugly cables.

Business users are more likely to use the technology to connect to the internet on the move at wireless "hotspots" installed in airports, hotels and cafes.

Manufacturers would bring out new add-on cards that worked at both the old and the new speed, Mr Grimm said.

Once the new dual-speed cards had been on the market for about a year, they were likely to cost only 30% more than current 11 Mbps cards, he predicted.

The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance works to make sure that wireless networking products from different companies work with products from competitors.

Its Wi-Fi5 promotion is part of the CeBIT 2002 technology fair, the world's largest trade fair, open in Hanover, Germany, until 20 March.

BBC News Interactive reports from the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover





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