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Intel's Radio Ambitions

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is dipping its toe into the emerging market for 802.11n high-speed wireless LAN chips with a prototype shown off at the 2005 Symposium on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Japan last week.

The firm has developed a dual-band silicon radio chip -- produced using its standard 90 nanometer manufactoring process -- that can support all current 802.11 standards and should be able to handle 802.11n (108 Mbit/s) once that comes on the market.

"The prototype is already at 100 Mbit/s," an Intel spokesman tells Unstrung.

Intel and its WLAN chip rivals, Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), already produce WLAN radio chips using a CMOS process. But Intel says it eventually wants to produce a wireless radio chip for all seasons.

"The goal is ultimately to get one chip that can sense the radio networks available to it in its environment and switch to the best one," says the Intel spokesman.

This kind of chip is probably years away, but analysts say Intel's prototype shows potential customers that the silicon giant is gearing up for faster wireless LAN chips.

"I think it's probably to show that they're making progress and preparing for 802.11n," says Bob Wheeler at The Linley Group.

"They clearly see the market potential. It's something they'll jump on sooner rather than later, and this component is a step in that direction," says Craig Mathias, principal at the Farpoint Group.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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