Home RF is in the works

By Stephen Lawton

A group of major systems vendors banded together this month to unveil the Home Radio Frequency Working Group (HRFWG) and plans for a new wireless networking standard. The gro up's goal is to develop a 2Mbps standard for homes and small businesses that do not need the capabilities and management of a traditional network.

The working group, which includes Compaq Computer Corp., Ericsson Enterprise Networks, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Motorola Corp., and others, hopes to publish a specification called Shared Wireless Access Protocol (SWAP) later this year.

SWAP is expected to combine elements of the IEEE 802.11 and Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications standards. The protocol will provide the capabilities of reviewing incoming voice, fax, and E-mail messages from a wireless telephone handset, intelligently forwarding incoming telephone and fax calls, accessing the Internet from a portable display device, and activating other home electronics systems by voice.

T he companies expect initial products to be available by the end of 1999. Details on HRFWG and SWAP are available at http://www.homerf.org .

At least one vendor, WebGear Inc., has begun shipping a product in this space. Aviator Wireless Network for small and home offices, priced at $299 and sold through retail outlets, includes two antennas/transmitters, a self-configuring parallel port card for a PC, proxy server software, and cables. Like the HRFWG plan, Aviator uses RF transmissions. Designed for networks of six to 12 users, its first platform is Microsoft Windows 95, and a Windows NT version is being developed. Gerald Burns, president of WebGear in Sunnyvale, Calif., said his company is in discussions with HRFWG and plans to contribute its technology to the SWAP development program. Contact WebGear at (408) 271-9 888; http://www.webgear.com .


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