Intel unveils WLAN chips with three modes

Intel Thursday announced the latest WLAN chipset for the next generation of its Centrino wireless product set.

The new radio chipset will transmit on either the 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz bands, so it can support 802.11b and 11g clients on the former band, and 11a clients on the latter. A notebook PC or other client with this chipset could automatically use whatever type of WLAN is available.

The new chipset, Intel Pro/Wireless 2915ABG Network Connection, will be introduced in notebook PCs starting next month. With it, Intel is finally catching up with rival chipmakers like Atheros Communications Inc., which has offered a dual-band or tri-mode chipset for some time.

Centrino is a group of silicon products specifically designed for notebook PCs. Centrino includes the Pentium M processor for the notebook CPU, the radio chipset for the WLAN connection, and the Intel 855 chipset for the memory controller. Centrino was designed as a complete package that could be embedded in notebook designs from companies like Dell and Gateway.

Intel has also updated the Intel Proset/Wireless Software. Version 9.0 includes a configuration wizard and automatic security setup. Also new is a simplified program so users can more easily connect to different wireless nets, such as in the office or a public-access WLAN.

The new software release also incorporates Cisco Compatible Extensions, code to simplify and optimize client connections to Cisco Systems access points. Finally, Intel and Linksys have created some code that lets Centrino-based notebooks find an un-configured Linksys access point and then guides users through a simple setup process.

As part of Centrino, Intel has also written code to make use of the 802.11i security standard, which supports the Advanced Encryption Standard. Also new is a single sign-on feature for users logging in to authenticate to the network.

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