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Intel 'zags' with shift to 802.11g

By John K. Waters

Never let it be said that Intel Corp. is too big to admit that it zigged when it should have zagged. After betting on the 802.11a/b Wireless LAN standard, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker has announced its first 802.11b/g chipset.

Last week, the company began shipping the Intel Pro/Wireless 2000BG (formerly code-named Calexico 2), an all-CMOS, two-chip solution implemented on a mini-PCI card. The new chip will be a standard feature of future versions of Centrino notebooks, company reps said.

According to Jim Johnson, Intel vice president and general manager of the Wireless Networking Group, the new chipset will provide more than three times the performance of standalone 802.11b solutions. It is designed to maintain high throughput at longer ranges in office or home environments, and has an efficient use of power to enable longer system battery life -- one of the key selling points of the Centrino technology bundle. The Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG network connection is also software upgradable, Johnson said, allowing it to support future security and other service enhancements.

Intel began shipping its first Centrino chipset last March with a 2.4GHz 802.11b wireless connection running at 11Mbps, even as the 802.11g, which ran at 54Mps and was backward-compatible with the 2.4GHz standard, was emerging.

The new chips include a baseband/media access control connecting to an 802.11b/g transceiver. The design emphasizes low power, complete standards compliance and an auto-detect function for maintaining maximum data rates.

The chip set implements Wireless Protected Access (WPA) as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and will also implement quality-of-service features in the form of Wireless Multimedia Extensions (WME) later in the first half of 2004.

In addition, this is the first Wi-Fi solution from Intel that is completely its own. The company's 802.11b Centrino offerings used technology from Texas Instruments and Philips.

The 2200BG supports Wi-Fi Protected Access for security and will be upgradable to 802.11i security when that standard is done, the company said. Intel had the module Wi-Fi-Certified for interoperability by the Wi-Fi Alliance before it shipped. The 2200BG will also support Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) and will be upgradable to Version 2.0 of CCX when available later this year.

Interestingly, Intel demonstrated the new chipset last week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The demo involved a wireless, high-definition broadcast of the independent film "November." Festival attendees viewed the film on new Sony VAIO notebook PCs based on Intel Centrino mobile technology.

Intel is pricing the chipset at $25 per 10,000.

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