Intel Optimizing Wi-Fi Data Transmissions

Company has been busy profiling its wireless chips, trying to extend the performance and bandwidth of the devices.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Intel researchers are busily optimizing how the companys Wi-Fi devices transfer data, in a bid to provide the best wireless experience possible.

Although Intels wireless efforts have lagged behind such rivals as Atheros, Broadcom and Texas Instruments, Intels Chief Technology Officer Pat Gelsinger said today at the IDF show here that the company has been busy profiling its wireless chips, trying to extend the performance and bandwidth of the devices to the highest level possible.

Intel is applying advanced modulation techniques to its upcoming wireless silicon, including future 802.11 revisions and WiMAX, while working with the industry to push advanced antennae that will improve the networks performance further.

"We want to see a renaissance, a transparency allowing seamless communication thats a fundamental part of the digital tapestry of the future," Gelsinger said.

Although Gelsinger is theoretically responsible for overseeing all of Intels technology initiatives, he has concentrated mostly on helping Intel develop new wireless technologies, part of the companys "Radio Free Intel" initiative of a wireless-connected world. Gelsinger spoke along with Eric Mentzer, vice-president of Intels Communications Group and the CTO of that business unit, who described how Intel would design products for back-end communications equipment.

While developing the client 802.11 silicon that will appear in Intels next-generation platforms, Intel is applying adaptive modulation to chart how a wireless signal fluctuates in a crowded environment. For example, when a low-power 802.11b client appears at the edge of a hotspots signal, it can require a large number of packets to be resent. As a result, the hotspot essentially wastes bandwidth on a "bad" radio, Gelsinger said.

Adaptive modulation algorithms require computational power, however. "The reason we havent done this before is that these algorithms require MIPS, and MIPS means Moores Law," Gelsinger said.

The same techniques will be applied to Intels WiMAX silicon, which Intel executives on Wednesday said would ship in 2004.

To improve the signal further, Intel is working with unnamed industry partners to encourage the use of multiple antennae on notebooks and other mobile devices, said Gelsinger. Researchers discovered that using multiple antennae to transmit and receive wireless signals resulted in an overall increase in bandwidth. The "MiMode" technology could be applied to notebooks; for example, placing four antennae at each corner of the LCD to improve reception, he said.

Gelsinger also trotted out a prototype "universal communicator" that could roam between Wi-Fi and GSM networks, transmitting voice, video and data. The universal communicator will not be marketed as a product, either from Intel or third parties, Gelsinger said. However, the phone used the SymPhone software from TeleSym Inc., Bellevue, Wash., indicating that such devices may become a reality at some point.

Mentzers speech, meanwhile, focused on improvements the company is making around network infrastructure silicon. Intel has designed a line of development platforms using its Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture. The idea is to design standard building blocks upon which carrier-grade equipment can be built.

Although Intel designed the IXP2400, IXP2800 and IXP2850 network processors for this market, Intels new announcements focused on software and development tools. Intel previously developed a carrier-grade Linux distribution, and version 2.0 is due before the end of the year, Mentzer said. Meanwhile, Intel announced version 3.1 of its IXA embedded processor development kit to speed deployment further.