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Centrino Adds A, Not G

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is preparing to launch its long awaited dualmode 802.11a (54-Mbit/s over 5GHz) and b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) Centrino-branded notebook chipset next month.

However, the company isn't planning to start shipping Centrino chipsets supporting the new 802.11g (54-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) standard in volume until next year, despite the fact that market research suggests that g gear is likely to be the fastest growing sector of the market this year (see Dell'Oro: 802.11 Kit up 1%).

Centrino currently only supports the original b spec -- lagging behind rival offerings from the likes of Agere Systems (NYSE: AGR.A), Atheros Communications, and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), vendors that all now have products that support g.

Intel originally said it would come out with a dualmode a and b chipset at the end of last year -- there was even a space for the radio on the first Centrino b chipset (see Intel Plots Home-Grown 802.11). Intel sourced the b radio components from Philips Semiconductors and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) but decided to build its own 5GHz a radio, which is what is thought to be one cause of the initial delay in lauching a dualmode chipset (see Intel's Radio Follies).

The a/b chipset required "additional engineering" according to Intel spokesperson, Dan Francisco. "You have the engineering part of it and the validation and verification of the entire platform. When you ship in the kind of volumes that we do you have to ensure that everything works together," he says.

Francisco didn't exactly confirm the July launch date, but he didn't quite deny it either: "We've said publicly we'll ship in the summer... July's in the summer isn't it?"

Asian Website DigiTimes quotes Eric Jao, Intel's Asia/Pacific marketing manager, as stating a potential price of US$35 for the a/b module, well above the $20 802.11b Wireless Pro cards Intel currently ships. Intel is still using b radio elements from Philips and TI on this version of the platform.

The firm is developing its first homegrown 2.4GHz homegrown radio for the g version of Centrino, which will start shipping to vendors in the fourth quarter of this year, but won't be on the market until 2004. This will be followed by a chipset that supports all three of the available flavors of 802.11 in the first half of next year.

Some say as many as 500 employees are working on 802.11 at the company.

Bob Wheeler, senior analyst at The Linley Group thinks that not having g "throws a major wrench in the Centrino branding effort." (See Centrino: Building the Brand.)

He does not rule out the prospect of Intel putting out a stopgap g product before next year -- possibly using radio components sourced from Intersil Corp. (Nasdaq: ISIL). "The information I had is that maybe Intel is scrambling to do something with g before 2004."

However, Intel's Francisco's insists that the chipmaker will go it alone for g. "It'll be all ours," he says.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, and Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

lrmobile_whalenc 12/4/2012 | 11:49:44 PM
re: Centrino Adds A, Not G Good article. Warms the heart to watch those folks at INTC work their magic. Is it just me, or is the matching of 802.11 a & b a little odd? I mean, the only people I know running 802.11a work in the ailses of large warehouses or retailers. Doesn't putting b&g together on the ol' centrino make more sense?
standardsarefun 12/4/2012 | 11:49:35 PM
re: Centrino Adds A, Not G It all depends. The big advantage of 11a is that it is using "new" spectrum and so should, in the long run, give you better performance since the interference will be lower.

Then again, 11a is no use in a PC if most access points are 11b/11g

Funny thing is, if Intel have made both basebands that is, low rate (11b) and high rate (11a and 11g are basically the same thing), and both radios (2.4 and 5 GHz) why not target a triple mode device (11a,b+g)? Anyone got any good idea of the increase in complexity to go from 11a+b > 11a,b+g ?? Surely this is an easier migration path than 11b+g > 11a,b+g?

joset01 12/4/2012 | 11:49:33 PM
re: Centrino Adds A, Not G Well they don't have a home-grown 2.4GHz (b/g) radio yet, but from what I understand once you have the 2.4GHz radio and the 5GHz radio for a/b, plus the associated MAC & baseband controller silicon, it shouldn't take long to develop an a/b/g chip.

DJ
joset01 12/4/2012 | 11:49:33 PM
re: Centrino Adds A, Not G In theory any G chip should be backwards compatible with B. But Intel says it won't be shipping in volume with G til next year.

DJ
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