Lucent designs chip for faster mobile speeds

Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Bell Labs research unit this week unveiled a new "turbo decoder" chip the company says can enable wireless transmission speeds up to ten times faster than today's most advanced mobile networks.

However, actual implementations of screamingly quick connections based on the technology are likely to remain distant: Lucent itself doesn't plan to release equipment based on the standard that the chips support until 2006. In the meantime, the company plans to offer licenses for the technology to other manufacturers.

The chips, which Lucent says can handle data rates up to 24M bps (bits per second), support the still-evolving High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) standard for high-speed transmissions. They will support first-generation HSDPA systems estimated at speeds of 5M bps to 10M bps as well as possible future systems that could go up to 20M bps, according to a company statement. Lucent's goal is to create high-performance, low-power components that will prompt manufacturers to pursue faster mobile networks.

Mobile operators have been slow to implement high-speed upgrades. AT&T Wireless Services Inc. recent scaled back its 3G (third generation) mobile network plans, and NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s 3G service in Japan has attracted only tepid consumer interest.

A research team in Sydney designed Lucent's chip, which was introduced Tuesday in San Francisco at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference. A white paper with technical details about the chip is available at http://www.bell-labs.com/issccpaper/.

Although several prototypes of the chip for demonstration systems have been made, no mass production is currently planned, according to Adam Grossberg, a Lucent spokesman.

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