Turbo Modes

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-08-26 Print this article Print

Meanwhile, the controversial, proprietary "turbo modes" that Atheros and others have promoted may just work in their favor. Router makers, such as Buffalo, that have successfully tested and verified their products against the Centrino brand say Intel has been the tide that has lifted all boats. Still, as Buffalos Sano noted, a customer who brings in a Centrino-equipped notebook to a café and connects to the companys Broadcom-equipped 125-Mbit AirStation 125 high-speed mode wireless cable/DSL router wont enjoy the kind of throughput than if he had a notebook containing Broadcom silicon. Faced with such a situation, the router would default to the slower throughput used by the Centrino. "Its just a limitation of the technology," Sano said. Thats good news for companies such as Atheros, who say theyve been written off time and again as new generations of Centrino products begin to come to market.
According to Colin Macnab, vice president of marketing and business development at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Atheros, the companys Wi-Fi business has expanded in two successive quarters as gross margins have also increased, prompted by adoption of the turbo-mode "SuperG" standard in Asia. Intels communications business, meanwhile, has continually struggled.
"Before you drop Atheros from the discussion, please find me a PC OEM whos willing to hang their hat on nothing but Intel. Please stand up," Macnab joked. Even Dell Inc., which traditionally has been viewed as a staunch Intel partner, has been willing to distance itself from the Centrino fold. Like others, Dell has offered a base configuration that offers all three components of the Centrino platform –processor, chip set and Wi-Fi module–to benefit from Intels marketing subsidies. But Dell has also offered its own Dell-branded Dell Wireless cards using Broadcom silicon. Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden said she did not know whether Dell would continue to offer the Dell Wireless Wi-Fi card line. Tying Intels processors to its own Wi-Fi chip sets also leaves a number of Wi-Fi vendors to do deals with Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which is ramping its own low-power Athlon64 processors, Wi-Fi executives said. With Intel and its rivals neck-and-neck in the Wi-Fi standards race, executives in the wireless industry said they expect the fight to go forward on two fronts: 802.11n, which will increase Wi-Fis bandwidth to more than 100 Mbits per second; and 802.11e QOS (quality-of-service) enhancements. Click here to read about a proposal for the 802.11n standard from industry coalition WWiSE (World Wide Spectrum Efficiency). One wireless executive said this weeks agreement to bundle Vonages VOIP service with routers from Linksys and Netgear would have far-reaching implications. "QOS has been something thats been talked about, but there hasnt been much meat on the bone," he said. "If people start using VOIP, theyre going to want to be absolutely sure the calls are clear, especially with other [Internet] traffic on the line. QOS would seem to be a good differentiator." Intels Johnson said the company sits on the boards for each of the Wi-Fi standards bodies, and that it will include new capabilities as soon as standards are ratified. At the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University, former Intel microprocessor executive and Dell Personal Systems Group PC chief Carl Everett said his team regularly conducts a 30-frames-per-second videoconference with his team in Bangalore, India. Everett, a partner at venture-capital firm Accel Partners in Palo Alto, Calif., said his firm uses dedicated Cisco QOS routers to facilitate the video stream. 32-way Opteron systems could ship next year, Newisys Inc. executives said at the Hot Chips conference. Click here to read more. Meanwhile, Macnab said a number of discussions still must be resolved surrounding 802.11n, which has already drawn battle lines in advance of the preliminary standards discussions that will be held in Berlin next month. In this fight, Atheros and Intel are on the same side, part of the so-called TGn Sync group. To date, all of the public proposals use some array of multiple antennas, which stream parallel signals in a MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) approach for greater bandwidth. "The question is which form of MIMO will win the battle," Atheros Macnab said. Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at http://wireless.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis.

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