Electronet, Yet Again
Yes, folks, it’s passed into the trend phase. Wireless networks are all the rage these days, though none have made their way to my door yet. I heard the latest news from the strangest source, the evening news on the radio. Evidently, Motorola is introducing a new network technology called WIN, which stands for Wireless In-building Network. Unlike most of the competing wireless network technologies, Motorola claims that WIN will be capable (eventually) of speeds around 100 megabits per second. In comparison, LocalTalk – got it right this time, LocalTalk is the network hardware and software built into every Mac, AppleTalk is the overall network scheme and includes EtherTalk, LocalTalk, and TokenTalk – runs at about 230 kilobits per second.
Motorola doesn’t have a specific product ready, but they claim to have tested the technology at 50 megabits/second, though 15 megabits/second will be the first speed at which products will run. For those of you who know what’s where in the radio frequencies, Motorola has applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for licenses in the 18 to 19 gigahertz range, which is most commonly used by microwave transmitters. Interference would likely be a problem, except for the limited range (within a building) of WIN and the fact that Motorola’s licenses would be the only ones within a 35 mile radius.
While Motorola looks high in the radio frequencies, Apple is looking lower. Apple has asked the FCC to allocate the 1.7 to 2.3 gigahertz range for high-speed data transmissions. We haven’t heard anything about any Apple radio network products, but you can rest assured that the people who brought you AppleTalk, that "insanely great networking system," (to quote the Apple engineer who chided me on saying AppleTalk when I meant LocalTalk in a previous issue), are working on something interesting along those lines. I wouldn’t be too surprised if General Magic’s "Personal Intelligent Communicator" work was somewhat related.
We expected to hear more about GEC-Marconi’s Verran AC DataLink. It’s the only electrical-line networking device that we’ve heard of that supports the Mac as well as the multitudes of PC-clones. It’s not much as far as a network goes, as the company only recommends the 16 kilobits per second speed for sharing printers and the like, but in theory it could be used to share files. Even still, using the power lines is an efficient use of preinstalled wiring if you don’t want to install network wiring all over the place as well. One way or another, the Verran AC DataLink is a start, though it could use a better name, but it would be nice if more of the innovative networking products showed up for the Mac.
GEC-Marconi — 703-6488-1551
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
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