Intel gets dualband Wi-Fi chip out the door

After several delays, Intel announced Monday that its Intel Pro/Wireless 2100A chip is shipping to notebook manufacturers, giving Centrino notebooks an 802.11a connection.

The new chip allows notebook users to connect to 802.11a networks, which operate on a higher frequency than the more popular 802.11b networks currently supported by Intel's Centrino technology. The 802.11a networks operate in the 5GHz range, which transfers data at faster rates with less interference but over shorter distances than 802.11b networks.

Most consumers have opted for 802.11b or 802.11g networks, which operate on the widely used 2.4GHz frequency. The 802.11g networks and 802.11a networks both allow data transfer speeds as high as 54M bps (bits per second), but real-world results are often closer to 20M bps.

The 802.11a standard is expected to be used in corporate environments or in home media networks.

The Pro/Wireless 2100A chip supports both 802.11a and 802.11b connections. Intel is working on a chip that supports both 802.11b and 802.11g networks, and expects to ship that chip to PC manufacturers before the end of the year, with systems available in the first half of next year, according to an Intel spokesman. A chip that supports all three standards will follow in the second half of 2004, he said.

The Santa Clara, California, company needed additional time to test and validate the 2100A chip in September, when it announced that chip would be delayed. The spokesman declined to specify why that additional time was needed. Intel had originally hoped to ship a 802.11a part with the initial Centrino launch in March of this year.

Intel declined to release pricing information for the 2100A chip, although it will likely be more expensive than the current 802.11b Pro/Wireless 2100 chip.

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