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Intel unveils tri-mode Wi-Fi for Centrino

Intel finally delivered on its promise to update its Centrino processor platform last week with the launch of a tri-mode Wi-Fi adapter for notebook PCs. The new PRO/Wireless 2915ABG Network Connection module supports the three Wi-Fi standards: 802.11a, b and g.

Intel's Centrino is a combination of three technologies bundled into laptops: Intel's low-power Pentium-M processor, its 855 chipset and the PRO/Wireless Wi-Fi components.

Intel has been shipping the components, formerly code-named Calexico 2, in sample quantities to manufacturers since July. The tri-mode adapter will be available in notebooks this quarter, the company says, and the technology is expected to be part of the next-generation Centrino bundle, code-named Sonoma, expected in early 2005.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker announced a week earlier the Sonoma launch, expected this quarter, would be delayed until early next year. That mobile computing package will include the new Dothan Pentium M CPU.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ratifies the 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi standards. 802.11b supports bandwidth up to 11 Mbps, which is comparable to traditional Ethernet; 802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and signals in a regulated 5 GHz range; 802.11g supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and uses the 2.4 GHz frequency for greater range. 802.11g is backward-compatible with 802.11b.

Intel's new hardware module also supports the 802.11i security standard, which the IEEE recently ratified. 802.11i encrypts wireless communications using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm. Enterprise users can also employ single sign-on during login to authenticate users on the wireless network. The technology currently supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WEP security, and is expected to support WPA2, when available, the company says.

Accompanying the new hardware is the 9.0 version of Intel's PROSet/Wireless Software. This version comes with the Intel Smart Wireless Solution, a tool that includes a configuration wizard, advanced troubleshooting capabilities, and automated security set-up. The software is designed to detect and show all available networks and offer advanced profile management so users can more easily connect to different wireless networks, the company says.

The new tri-mode hardware and software support the most recent version of Cisco Compatible Extensions. Intel formed a partnership last year with router manufacturer Linksys, which Cisco recently acquired. The new Intel offering is designed to allow Centrino-based notebooks to work easily with the Linksys routers.

Intel is pricing the hardware-software combination at $27 per chip when purchased in quantities of 10,0000 units.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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