With an attractive combination of fast data rates and backward compatibility, a fledgling WLAN standard is getting an early jolt of support from wireless vendors looking for components several months ahead of the specifications ratification.
The proposed standard, 802.11g, which supports data throughput rates of up to 54M bps, is expected to be well-suited for home and small-office use initially and then wireless LAN enterprises.
To meet the expected demand, a host of networking companies, including Intersil Corp., Texas Instruments Inc., 3Com Corp. and Atheros Communications Inc., are revving up 802.11g plans.
While an existing specification, 802.11a, already supports 54M-bps rates, 802.11g uses the 2.4GHz frequency band, the same band as the popular but slower 802.11b.
As for compatibility, 802.11b users would be able to step up to 802.11g with little hassle, while equipment to support all three standards simultaneously would cost about the same as current dual-band gear, sources said.
Intersil plans in the first half of next year to ship a two-chip radio, called Duet, which will support 802.11a, 80211b and 80211g. The plan is to embed the radio in notebooks as well as in PC Cards, said officials in Palm Bay, Fla.
A Duet card could work with 802.11g networks in the home office, 802.11a networks in the enterprise and 802.11b networks in the myriad public "hot spots" sprouting up all over the country, officials said.
TI has similar plans and expects to offer products for all three WLAN flavors as soon as the standard is ratified, officials said.
"The [802.11g] standard has reduced the viability of a pure 802.11a marketplace," said Bill Carney, director of wireless business development at TI, in Santa Rosa, Calif. "802.11g is creating a convergence between a and b, and multiband is the expectation."