Intel, Symbol Ready Wireless LAN Products for 2001

The first wireless local area networking products jointly developed by Intel and Symbol Technologies are scheduled to hit the market by the first half of 2001, according to a Symbol executive.

Engineers from the two companies are already hard at work at a new Intel facility in San Diego, California, dedicated to developing new wireless LAN (local area network) chips, Chuck Hudson, Symbol's vice president of product marketing for wireless LAN systems, said in an interview here last week.

"Intel is likely to introduce its first wireless chips sooner, probably before the end of this year, but the first jointly developed products will come in next year's first half," Hudson said.

The products will be based on the IEEE 802.11 specification for wireless networking, he said, declining to offer any further details. The latest iteration of the specification, 802.11b, allows for data rates of up to 11M-bps.

Intel and Symbol last month inked an agreement to jointly develop technologies for high-speed wireless LAN products, ranging from chips to adapters and access point devices for use in wireless environments. As part of the alliance, Intel also agreed to invest US$100 million in Symbol.

Some 200 engineers from Intel and Symbol are cooperating closely to develop new high-speed wireless LAN technologies. The staff that includes Intel personnel from the company's former wireless unit known as Area 51, which was named after a top-secret U.S. Air Force facility in the Nevada desert outside Las Vegas, Hudson said.

In addition to its alliance with Intel, Symbol is also hoping to sign similar partnership agreements with other major networking vendors, Hudson said.

Cisco Systems is one prospective partner, Hudson said. Symbol already has several joint projects with the networking giant, including one in which Cisco will use Symbol's IP (internet protocol) telephone handsets, he added. No such broader agreement is in the works right now, however, Hudson said.

"Nobody can do this alone. Intel, for example, has a wealth of chip development experience, while we have more experience in wireless, so partnerships are key," Hudson said.

3Com Corp.'s recently introduced AirConnect wireless LAN offerings, for example, are based on Symbol's products, Hudson said in a presentation.

"Once the big players come into the market prices will come down," Hudson said.

In related news, Symbol officials here last week said that the new 802.11b specification together with improvements in security technologies have rekindled interest in wireless LAN technologies among service providers and corporate IT managers.

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