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A wireless network’s performance isn’t based on just one factor, of course: my router can’t download data from the Web any faster than my DSL connection allows. Network speed is measured in megabits, or millions of bits, per second, and my DSL on a good day hits two megabits a second. My router’s claimed top speed is 108 megabits a second. So though I knew the MIMO router wouldn’t let my laptop access the Internet any faster, I did hope that I could use it to enhance my house’s feeble wireless capabilities.

Having noticed new televisions with built-in Wi-Fi, I imagined using MIMO to zip downloads from digital video cameras to the TV, or even to take stuff from the digital video recorder and zap it to one of our other TVs. In fact, I was letting my imagination run amok, warns Mathias. MIMO isn’t yet fast enough to handle large amounts of video.

And MIMO won’t be a universal solution. In some kinds of wireless networks, such as sensor or radio frequency ID networks, single radios will always be adequate – and cheaper. But for anything that involves data or voice, MIMO is likely to be adopted. For those uses, speed of data transfer is important. And MIMO looks like the technology that will finally let wireless networks start to close the gap between their speed and reliability and those of wired networks.

Wireless Wonders
Belkin Wireless Pre-N Router ($150)
Wireless Pre-N Notebook Network Card ($100)

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