Single-chip 802.11n promises cheap fast Wi-Fi

Chip to be announced this week at Global Wi-Fi Summit in Beijing

Broadcom has put 802.11n wireless networking fast Wi-Fi on a single chip, which could make fast Wi-Fi cheaper in the New Year.

"This will make life significantly easier for people developing 802.11n solutions," said Gordon Lindsay, Broadcom's European wireless product manager. "It uses our 65nm tech, and is half the size of our previous devices, and cuts the power demand by 50 percent to a more manageable 1.6W."

The chip, which is being announced at this week's Global Wi-Fi Summit in Beijing, can fit on a PCI Express Mini Card, to go in laptops and access points, is a dual-band 802.11n system, operating in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and also includes the power amplifiers to drive the radios. It's sampling now, and will be in products on the shelves in the first quarter of 2008, he said.

"We've sucked in a lot of the external shrapnel and reduced the whole bill of materials for a card by 50 percent," said Lindsay. A lot of laptops are now building in two PCI Express Mini Card slots, allowing laptops which can do both Wi-Fi and WiMax or 3G data, he said.

The card will be certified for compliance with the draft standard by the Wi-Fi Alliance, so devices that use it will automatically get Wi-Fi Alliance branding, said Lindsay.

Although it can fit in enterprise equipment, Broadcom is hoping to see it go in consumer devices such as TVs and camcorders. "The momentum is building, and we have interest even from manufacturers who rejected 802.11g," he said. This market would give such high volumes, it is a priority of the enterprise, he said. "Where the enterprise market is concerned, we're in a don't-care situation. We see laptop manufacturers going for dual band solutions -- what Cisco and everyone else does from network side is up to them."

Despite the smaller size and power needs, 802.11n is still not ready of handsets, said Lindsay. This is 140 square mm and they typically need a Wi-Fi implementation that is less than 100 square mm. Also, handset manufacturers have yet to specify how they would like 802.11n -- for instance whether power is a priority, or the availability of two bands.

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