Netgear has claimed to be first to ship a draft-802.11n wireless ADSL router, but has drawn criticism for a product that is likely to prove inferior to its existing products.Netgear says its RangeMax Next ADSL2+ modem router, or DG834N for short, is the first wireless-enabled ADSL2+ modem router based on the 802.11n draft, and delivers "the fastest data throughput speeds and furthest ranges available in the industry." The ADSL2+ uplink can reach 24Mbps, while the wireless LAN may provide more than 100Mbps (with Netgear quoting 300Mbps symbol rate), and the whole package including a firewall costs 169.99 pounds\u00a0(US$318).However, the company already sells a product range, the RangeMax 240 WPNT834, which is almost certainly faster and cheaper. RangeMax 240 products are based on the third-generation Airgo chipset, also used in the Linksys SRX400 series, which beat Netgear\u2019s Draft-802.11n products in a test run by Craig Mathias of Farpoint Research. Other tests have found that draft-802.11n products interfere with existing wireless LANs, in ways that spoil the performance of both."Draft-802.11n products don\u2019t just trash other WLANs, they trash themselves as well," said Dave Borison, senior product director at Airgo. "You are better off buying 802.11g."Naturally, Netgear doesn\u2019t agree: "If the customer wants highest speeds and best range, we give them two choices: RangeMax 240 and RangeMax Next," said David Henry in an e-mail interview. "If they appreciate the \u2018compliant to draft 802.11n\u2019 feature, then the Next product is the one for them. If not, then RangeMax 240 is the right one." Henry also disputed claims of poorer performance and neighbor interference.But the benefits of draft-n "feature" aren\u2019t clear. Standards should allow products to work together, but Mathias\u2019 tests found that draft-n products don\u2019t work together at draft-n speeds. They are also unlikely to upgrade to the eventual 802.11n standard, despite claims from chip vendors such as Broadcom that their chips are very "soft" and will be upgraded by firmware."Netgear does not claim 802.11n upgradability, and we will not until we have delivered on that," said Henry.Why is all this happening? According to Borison, other WLAN chip makers are worried that Airgo\u2019s MIMO chips are taking the top end of the WLAN market away: "Broadcom and Atheros are bleeding, as we sweep across the high end where the margins are good," he said. "We\u2019ve backed these guys into a corner."Equipment makers like Netgear and Linksys are playing the chip maker\u2019s game, said Borison, because "everyone wants to have a press release out saying they are first. It\u2019s just about who has the technological prowess.""It does seem they just wanted to be first to market," said Mathais. "But being first to market with a product that isn\u2019t ready for production isn\u2019t as good as what they already ship, and claims compliance with a nonstandard just boggles the mind."-Peter Judge, Techworld.comCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.