Posted on Tuesday, August 24 2004 @ 13:08 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
This week Intel will probably launch a new Wi-Fi tri-mode chip that supports 802.11b, 802.11g and the less used 802.11a. The current chips from Intel only support the "b" and "g" varieties.
Intel would only say that Thursday's announcement is "to introduce its latest wireless technology for Intel Centrino notebooks."
Analysts, however, said the news was likely to be the new Wi-Fi chip, as Intel has said previously it would have the product ready in the second half of the year.
"The only new thing that's upcoming is the tri-mode chip," said JMP Securities analyst Krishna Shankar.
Analysts say that 802.11a can accommodate more network traffic at a similar or greater speed without interfering with microwaves and cordless phones. But partly because it's not compatible with other Wi-Fi technologies 802.11a is far less popular.
Only 24 of 1,250 certified Wi-Fi products are designed for single-band 802.11a networks.
In an alphabet soup of wireless standards, analysts say, the best solution for product makers is to support as many technologies as possible in one device, and let software decide which to use -- a common practice in cellular phones.
Tri-mode Wi-Fi chips are expected to become prevalent, they say, allowing computers to automatically connect to the best available network.
While other chip makers, including Atheros Communications Inc. ATHR.O , already have tri-mode Wi-Fi products, Intel's market presence is expected to give the technology a marketing boost.
802.11a offers speeds as fast as 54 megabits per second, equivalent to 802.11g. The original Wi-Fi standard, 802.11b, runs as fast as 11 megabits per second, still far faster than most home broadband connections.
The 802.11a version has several key advantages to give it higher speeds and avoid interference, said Richard Doherty, director of the Envisioneering Group, a technology market research firm based in Seaford, New York.
"Unlike b and g, it operates in a band that is not shared with cordless phones and microwaves," Doherty said. "An awful lot of consumer and business complaints on wireless today can be traced to the network going down at lunch when someone uses the microwave."
Craig Matthias, a wireless communications consultant based in Ashland, Massachusetts, described 802.11a as a highway with 24 "lanes," or channels, an attractive alternative to 802.11g, which he said has three channels.
"Wouldn't it be better to move off to the wide open spaces? And that's what 'A' represents," he said.