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Netgear Rolls Out 802.11ac USB Adaptor

Netgear announced what it claims is the first 802.11ac adapter for notebooks, as well as a cheaper version of the R6300 router it unveiled in April. David Henry, vice president of product management for Netgear, said that consumers could buy the R6300 online beginning on Thursday, for the previously announced price of $199.99 (around £130)

But Netgear also announced a dual-band version of the R6300, the R6200, a two-stream product that will retail for about $179.99 (around £115) beginning this July, Henry said in an interview. The A6200 802.11ac adapter will cost about $69 (around £45), and will ship in August, he said.

The A6200 is also a dual-stream adapter, the first, critical step to pushing 802.11ac to client devices like notebooks. Without a 802.11ac-to-802.11ac between the router and client device, the improvement in bandwidth would be meaningless.

Broadcom, the chip vendor backing the technology, dubs 802.11ac "5G Wi-Fi," as a way to distinguish it from prior generations. The new 802.11ac generations of routers will be compatible with previous Wi-Fi routers and clients, including 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n devices. However, 802.11ac delivers up to 1,300 Mbps speeds (under ideal conditions) on the 5-GHz band, plus operating on the 2.4-GHz band used by 802.11b/g/n clients.

Michael Hurlston, senior vice president at Broadcom, said he expects that 802.11ac technology will be integrated into PCs during the third quarter of this year, followed by televisions in the fourth quarter, and finally mobile phones in early 2013, if only because of their development cycles.

Patrick Lo, the chief executive of Netgear, said that the company had commissioned a survey of its users last year. "The number-one feature our users desired was, not surprisingly, speed," he said.

Henry positioned 802.11ac as an even more important technology in the era of cloud computing, where photos and other content are uploaded to the cloud as soon as the client is in range of a Wi-Fi network. "As soon as you walk in the house, iCloud wants to sync with the computer," he said.

With today's devices, users may want to dock the device to sync it, Henry said. "With 802.11ac, it's already done." The difference between the R6300 and the R6200 is a single USB port, as well as the speed of the router. Netgear's R6300 will include a pair of USB ports for attaching a printer or a storage device, and will include ReadyShare technology that networks the attached USB printer as well as AirPrint, or printing from an iPad or iPhone. Parental controls also secure websites at the choke point of the router, rather than individual client devices. While the R6200 will have all of these features, it contains just a single USB port for slightly less flexibility.

Netgear also rates the R6300 at "450+1300 Mbps" speeds, a rather confusing nomenclature that simply means that the router can transmit up to 450 Mbps of information on the 2.4-GHz band that's shared with legacy 802.11b/g/n devices, as well as 1,300 Mbps on the 5-GHz band used by the 802.11ac technology. The R6200, meanwhile, is rated at "300+867 Mbps" speeds, indicating that performance will be a trifle less than the company's top-of-the-line router.

Henry said that the its so-called legacy 802.11n devices would remain on the market for several months, and even longer in the case of its single-band devices. "We're still selling single-band 'g' adapters at Walmart," he said, to customers who have unfounded worries about compatibility. "I think [802.11] ac will be very quick to replace the dual-band products," Henry added.