Intel Develops Chip That Integrates Existing, Future 802.11 Wireless Standards

Intel on Friday presented a paper detailing its latest chip breakthrough at the Symposium on VLSI Technology in Kyoto, Japan. The company has developed a prototype of a dual-band radio transceiver that supports the current 802.11a, b and g Wi-Fi standards as well as the requirements expected from the upcoming 802.11n protocol. Appleis AirPort and AirPort Extreme networking solutions use 802.11b and 802.11g, respectively.

"Current wireless solutions tend to be multiple sets of chips," Intel spokesman Howard High explained to The Mac Observer. "Weive built this on standard CMOS [Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor] silicon, which means we will be able to deliver it in high volume because our microprocessors are built on CMOS."

Because this chip was a prototype and Intel still needs to get approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S., as well as equivalent agencies in other countries, Mr. High said "it will be a couple years before you see it [in consumer products]. Weive shown it can be done, and now our product groups will take the technology and decide how to use it: in a smartphone, or a laptop, and so forth."

Mr. High declined to speculate whether Apple will use the chip in its upcoming Intel-based Macs, stating: "I have no clue what Apple will choose to use. When this chip is available, our customers will have the choice to use it."

Wireless networking is an important part of Intelis product road map. The companyis Centrino chipset, for example, is available in different configurations that marry Pentium M processors with various combinations of the 802.11a/b/g standards. It is also aggressively pursuing WiMAX, which Mr. High described as a "back-end broadband deliverable." One pundit The Mac Observer spoke with before Apple announced the move to Intel processors even speculated that the then-rumored relationship centered around WiMAX.

Intelis long-term goal, Mr. High explained, is to build a CMOS chip with a reprogrammable radio and positionable antennas, enabling it to connect to any network, whether itis based on WiMAX, 802.11 or even cellular technology. "It will be lighter and lower cost and have better battery life," he said. "Weive shown we can do it with 802.11, but we still have to bring those other standards onto the chip."