US Robotics has increased the speed of its latest range of wireless LAN (WLAN) products to 22Mbps. Its new products are backwards compatible with existing 11Mbps systems using the 2.4GHz frequency – the same as Apple’s AirPort offers.

Maximum transmission-distances are also 50 per cent higher than before.

A faster wireless LAN alternative – the 54Mbps 802.11a – has been on the market for over a month. However, systems implementing it are incompatible with existing WLAN equipment, as they operate at a different radio frequency.

US Robotics 22Mbps products include: a wireless access point or base station, and a PC Card and a PCI adapter. They are fully compatible with existing 802.11b WLAN systems, said Juan Lopez, product manager of US Robotics. New products can communicate with one another at 22Mbps, and slow down to 11Mbps to communicate with older products.

This is important, as service providers offering WLAN solutions in US coffee shops and hotels have already invested in deploying systems built using the 802.11b system at 11Mbps.

The products use Texas Instruments’ ACX100 chip. As well as delivering faster speeds, it supports a new modulation scheme called packet binary convolutional code (PBCC). This gives the products the extra kick: even at lower speeds, PBCC provides better performance at greater distances, and can work at 22Mbps.

More on the way Other manufacturers may be about to offer solutions built using the new technology. “I suspect you will see more 22Mbps products launched as a result of our announcement,” Lopez said. Other announcements could appear in a matter of weeks, he said.

Although no final standard exists for the 22Mbps WLANs, Lopez is confident that US Robotics’ systems will interoperate with those of its competitors when they arrive on the market.

“They will all talk to each other at 22Mbps and at all downshift speeds, since they all use the TI ACX100 chipset,” he said.

The 22Mbps products will all be available in the US in June, the company said. The 22Mbps Wireless Access Point will cost $199.99; the 22Mbps Wireless Access PC Card $99.99; and the 22Mbps Wireless AccessCI Adapter Card $119.99.