Intel Pushes Wireless LANs, Adds Support for 802.11g

Intel, on Thursday, introduced a connector for Centrino that supports both 802.11b and 802.11g wireless LANs, and revealed a $300 million marketing budget behind Centrino.

Intel Corp. has updated the wireless LAN technology for its Centrino line of notebook computer chip sets. The Santa Clara, Calif., chip company on Thursday introduced the Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG, a connector for Centrino that supports both 802.11b and 802.11g wireless LANs.

Centrino includes a Pentium M processor along with a wireless radio. Up until now, Centrino has supported only 802.11b networks, which offer data throughput speeds of up to 11Mbps. 802.11g supports speeds of up to 54Mbps.

The Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG network connection consists of a communications and radio chip, both designed and developed by Intel at its wireless networking facilities in Haifa, Israel, and San Diego, Calif. Previous Centrino radios have been manufactured by Philips Semiconductor, which cast some industry doubts about Intels wireless expertise.

Intels in-house design coupled with its support for high-speed wireless LANs could mean trouble for competitors such as Broadcom Corp. and Atheros Communications Inc. Both companies already offer 802.11g products but neither can afford the budget of some $300 million that Intel has spent marketing Centrino.

In September, Atheros CEO Craig Barratt said that at least one of his major customers planned to switch from Atheros chipsets to Centrino chipsets once Centrino started supporting 802.11g.

Broadcom and Atheros also both offer chipsets that support 802.11a, which offers the speeds of 802.11g, but in a less crowded frequency band. (802.11g runs in the same band as 802.11b, meaning it is backward compatible with existing 802.11b networks.) Intel plans to offer an 802.11a/b/g Centrino radio later this year.

The Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG will start appearing in notebook PCs throughout the first quarter of this year, Intel officials said. Companies planning to include the connector include Fujitsu Ltc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., NEC Corp., Sony Corp. and To-shiba Corp. In 10,000-unit quantities, the wireless component will cost $25.

Meanwhile, Intel has delayed the release of Dothan, the next generation of its Pentium M processor for notebook PCs.

Scheduled for release in mid-February, around the time of the chip makers Intel Developer Forum, officials pushed the release into the second quarter after a series of validation tests revealed problems that would have affected how the chip was manufactured.

During a conference call after announcing their fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday, Intel President Paul Otellini said engineers had to redesign some of the circuitry of the chip, causing the delay. Otellini added that the chips performance was not affected.

"Were disappointed we didnt ship Dothan as planned," he said.

Dothan is the first mobile chip from Intel to be built using the companys 90-nanometer manufacturing process. Prescott, the next version of the Pentium 4 processor using the 90-nanometer process, is expected to debut in early February.