Intel to put pre-standard 802.11n in Centrino

Far greater performance and range expected from 802.11n standard

During a presentation at the IEEE Globecom 2006 Expo in San Francisco on Tuesday, Alan Crouch, director and general manager at Intel's Communications Technology Lab told the audience to expect Intel to put a pre-standard version of IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi into its Centrino chips by next year.

The IEEE 802.11n standard, which is not expected to be ratified before the first half of 2008, will give users far greater performance and range than current Wi-Fi technology. The technology will someday scale to 600Mbps, according to Bill McFarland, a member of the IEEE committee, with a range 50 percent greater than available with Wi-Fi now.

Although the news caused barely a ripple of reaction in the audience of software and hardware engineers, there are industry analysts who have already warned large buyers of wireless technology to resist the temptation to deploy high speed IEEE 802.11n devices until the standard is ratified.

This is the advice of Gartner's Ken Dulaney, among others, who said that a pre-standard version might be fine for the home where the technology exists as a closed loop, but in an enterprise with a heterogeneous wireless environment it could lead to interoperability problems down the road.

Continuing on a theme of emerging technologies, Crouch also touted the benefits of UWB (Ultra Wideband), a short range, three meters, wireless technology, which he said will start to gain recognition in '07.

UWB is sometimes called Wireless USB but with better performance. In addition, Crouch said the Bluetooth standards body will adopt UWB technology as a future version of Bluetooth.

With its short range and high performance, first devices will be capable of 480Mbps, Crouch said consumer electronics companies will quickly take up the technology.

Following Crouch on stage was David Leeper, senior principal engineer for UWB at Intel who continued to talk about UWB benefits and uses.

"It is a compelling technology because you can do video streaming at very low power," Leeper said.

Leeper estimated a full-length feature movie could be downloaded using UWB in 80 seconds.

If UWB performs as advertised it could easily replace most interconnect cables such as those running to printers, scanners, and other peripheral devices allowing a user to print, stream wireless display data, and synch all at the same time.

The capability to move a great deal of content at high speed also has a use in the enterprise, Leeper added.

At the end of the Intel presentation, Crouch admitted that the biggest challenge faced by the industry is overcoming RF (radio frequency) interference among the various wireless technologies, especially Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and UWB.

Crouch said each of the three technologies has a unique usage model and he does not expect any one of the three to replace the other.Crouch said, however, it wouldn't be easy to have a single device with all three radios inside.

"Requirements for [using] multi-radio is a huge leap. This is where companies are spending their time and energy," Crouch said.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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