Broadcom introduces single-chip Wi-Fi client

Broadcom has unveiled what it claims is the world's first 802.11b wireless Wi-Fi Lan client contained on a single, low-power chip...

Broadcom has unveiled what it claims is the world's first 802.11b wireless Wi-Fi Lan client contained on a single, low-power chip suitable for use in mobile phones, handheld computers and consumer electronic devices.

Stephen Palm, principal engineer at Broadcom, said the company is targeting the mobile phone market with the chip. Its low power which, Palm claimed, uses nearly 90% less power than other chips on the market, will allow Wi-Fi-enabled handsets to make voice-over-IP calls when in the range of an enterprise Wlan or a Wi-Fi hotspot. 

Despite the chip's small size, Palm said Broadcom has built extensive capabilities into the hardware, including the next-generation Advanced Encryption Standard and Wireless Protected Access security.

Broadcom is already talking to several mobile phone manufacturers, although Palm declined to identify them.

Broadcom is also working on a family of single-chip Wlan clients. 

Len Barlik, vice president of technology research and development at Sprint, predicted that Wi-Fi mobile handsets were unlikely to be widely used until 2005. 

Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias expected Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones to hit the market either late this year or early in 2004. He said mobile phones represent a major market for Wi-Fi, since some 500 million mobile phones are sold worldwide every year, adding that he expected Broadcom to hold on to its single chip advantage for a short time. 

Atheros Communications president and chief executive officer Craig Barratt said his company is working on a single Wi-Fi chip based on the 802.11a standard which operates in the 5-GHz band and provides raw data rates of 54Mbit/sec. The Broadcom chip has an 11Mbit/sec. transfer rate and operates in the 2.4-GHz band. 

Meanwhile, Foundry Networks has unveiled a family of products for the wireless Lan market, which include access points and a S$2,000 software upgrade that will allow its existing wired Lan network switches to control a company's wired and wireless network infrastructure from a single device. 

Foundry  uses Atheros dual-band, trimode chips in the $895 access points, which will support clients using the 802.11a and 802.11b standards as well as the 802.11g standard, which has a raw data rate of 54Mbit/sec in the 2.4-GHz band. 

Bob Brewin writes for Computerworld

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