Atheros and Broadcom chips promise faster Wi-Fi with less power

Broadcom and Atheros Communications have introduced new chipsets for connecting notebooks to wireless networks, and both are...

Broadcom and Atheros Communications have introduced new chipsets for connecting notebooks to wireless networks, and both are emphasising the reduced power consumption of their products.

Both companies manufacture the silicon that notebook manufacturers use to offer built-in wireless capabilities. They claimed the chips improve the power consumption of wireless networks operating on the 802.11a and 802.11g standards.

Those standards enable wireless download speeds as fast as 54Mbps (bits per second), but can drain the batteries of notebooks and handhelds relatively quickly. Both Broadcom and Atheros claim to have reduced the power consumption of high-speed wireless chipsets to less than the power consumed by many lower-speed 802.11b chipsets.

The Atheros chipsets come in two varieties, one that supports 802.11b and 802.11g networks, and one that supports those two standards plus 802.11a networks.

By using a new multiphase signal processing technique, the chipsets consume 20% less power during transmit mode than Intel's Pro/Wireless chip for 802.11b networks, and 95% less power in idle mode, Atheros claimed.

Broadcom likened its 802.11a and combination 802.11a/802.11g chipsets to Intel's Centrino package of the Pentium M processor, a mobile chipset and the Intel Pro/Wireless 2100 chip.

The battery in a notebook using one of Broadcom's new wireless chips will last 20 minutes longer than a battery in a Centrino notebook, the company claimed.

Last week, Intel said its 802.11a chip would not be out until next month, and the company is not expected to deliver a combination 802.11b/802.11g chip until the end of this year.

The Atheros chipsets are available in volume immediately to its partners. The AR5004X works with all three wireless standards, and the AR5004G supports 802.11g and 802.11b networks.

Broadcom's chipsets are also immediately available to its partners.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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