Speed Demon of Wireless Network Heads to Homes 36 minutes ago Add Technology - Reuters to My Yahoo! By Peter Henderson LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The new Ferrari of wireless networking has just hit the market, driving techies mad with the promise of more speed than even they can handle. The new system, which can zip music files between computers and let laptop users surf the Web from coffee shops at never-before-seen speeds, is actually too fast for average users, since the Internet suffers from other bottlenecks, but that does not slow down enthusiasts. "I can't wait," says Avi Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Maryland's Johns Hopkins University. He has ordered a setup from Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL.O) for his souped-up home network, one of the few customized to handle the new speed. Called Wireless G, the new networking system is the latest version of the popular WiFi standard that already powers most wireless networks in homes, coffee shops and airport lounges. The new version works with the older one, costs about 50 percent more, and is five times as fast -- a blazing increase. However, that makes it about 50 times faster than most cable Internet connections, a level of speed that is irrelevant for most user many users, at least for now. Linksys, a leading WiFi seller, believes the faster technology offers a degree of insurance against as-yet unavailable applications with high demands, said Allen Huotari, director of research and development. "What do you expect your home network to do a year from now?" he asked in a phone interview. "For pure Internet access, you probably don't need it (Wireless G)." Wireless G could stream a number of high-quality videos at once, while the older standard, Wireless B, can barely handle one stream in good circumstances. But legal issues about outside users seeing video feeds from home networks have slowed wireless video use. Rubin uses his wireless laptop to send music and work files flying around his house on radio waves. However, he cautions that security gaps that open wireless networks to snoopers plague all versions of WiFi, including Wireless G. (Story continues after advertisement) He has plugged holes for himself but says the best most wireless networkers can hope for is to use the encryption built into Internet browsers to keep Web surfing safe. Wireless networking has taken off in the last couple of years, especially in the home. Homes accounted for half the $1.7 billion in wireless networking hardware bought last year, according to Infonetics Research. It forecasts the market will grow to $2.7 billion in 2006 and that the new standard, Wireless G, will have a big impact this year. GENTLEMEN, START YOUR WIRELESS ENGINES WiFi comes in a bewildering array of flavors, technically defined as 802.11A, B and G. B is the oldest, slowest and most popular. A and G are speedier, but A is better for large groups of users located close to a base station, while G penetrates walls better and is backward compatible with B. That means that consumers will probably want to choose between B and G, makers say. Apple has already made the decision for Macintosh users. It only sells Wireless G base stations, since they work with B- and G-equipped computers. Amazon.com and buy.com both charge about $200 for a Linksys router and a laptop PC card using Wireless G, and $130 for the older system, after rebates. Unlike Apple's base station, the Linksys router does not have a USB port for a printer. One final fly in the ointment is that manufacturers started making Wireless G products before the technical standard was final, meaning buyers might have to download a software patch in a few months. There is a slight risk users find themselves limited to the slower "B" speeds outside their own home network. Still, Huotari sees a big year for Wireless G. "Everybody is pretty confident this is going to work," he said.