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Broadcom's Afterburner

I got the sense during my time in Broadcom's private room at CES that Afterburner isn't quite yet ready for prime time. The company made no announcement of the technology at CES, and searches I made just now on both the Broadcom and 54g.org websites turn up empty. But since Broadcom-customer Buffalo Technology introduced its WHR2-G54 125Mbps router at CES, the show had to go on!

I wasn't able to get many details about Afterburner's component parts, other than a confirmation that is also doesn't use channel bonding techniques and won't be the "bad neighbor" that they accuse Super-G of being. It's safe to say, though, that most of Broadcom's "secret sauce" is comprised of getting rid of as much 802.11 overhead as possible, while still looking out for non-Afterburner STAs.

I did get to see a demo - sort of. The noisy RF environment at the show wasn't being kind to Broadcom and they were having a hard time running both the Afterburner and Super-G "bad neighbor" demos. Since I didn't want to go away empty-handed, I begged the Broadcom engineer giving the demo for something to show what sort of throughput that Afterburner could deliver.

Fortunately, he had done some test runs at home where the air was clean and free and the results are shown in Figure 5.

Broadcom Afterburner test run

Figure 5: Broadcom Afterburner test run

This shot of a Chariot throughput run (the vertical axis spacing is 3Mbps) shows average Afterburner-enhanced throughput of about 34Mbps. Since two different programs were used - with different test files being tranferred - you can't directly compare these results with the Nitro XM results in Figure 3.

These results could be more directly compared with the Chariot-based Super-G testing that I did as part of the Atheros Super-G NeedToKnow article. If you take that leap of faith, then Afterburner looks like it provides throughput enhancement similar to Super-G, but without Super-G's potentially disruptive channel bonding.

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