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Delayed Intel Centrino WLAN part to arrive next month

But who wants 802.11a now?

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Intel will release its upcoming dual-band Wi-Fi adaptor card next quarter, the chip giant said yesterday. The part was to have shipped in the first half of the year, then early in the current quarter, Q3.

An Intel spokesman told Cnet that the mini-PCI card, which provides access to 2.4GHz, 11Mbps 802.11b networks and 5Ghz, 54Mbps 802.11a WLANs, will now ship early in the fourth quarter.

The reason for the delay: the chip giant has yet to complete validating and testing the adaptor, the spokesman said.

Next month, Intel will cut the prices of its Pentium M mobile processors, paving the way for the launch of the next generation of the chip, codenamed 'Dothan', toward the end of Q4. Intel may well be timing the new Wi-Fi adaptor's release to match either the price cuts or the Dothan launch.

Both the Pentium M and the Wi-Fi adaptor are key components of Intel's Centrino platform. The spokesman said the Wi-Fi adaptor was "weeks away" from being bundled under the Centrino brand, suggesting an early October release date. The Pentium M prices cuts are due on 5 October.

It has to be said, the decision to ship an 802.11a product is surprising, given the far greater interest the market has shown in 802.11g, which offers the same performance, but operates in the same band as 802.11b. A dual 802.11a/b essentially offers the same performance and backward compatibility as an 802.11g adaptor, but 802.11a has become something of a niche product.

Intel is working on an 802.11g part, which is due to ship by the end of the year, leaving almost no time for the 802.11a part to establish itself. Had it shipped in the first half of 2003, it would have arrived before 802.11g's official ratification as a standard, and given sufficient promotion from Intel might just have swung the market in favour of the 802.11a standard.

Analysts believe 802.11a will ultimately find a role in enterprises who need a high performance WLAN for video and voice as well as data. But that will require the ratification of quality of service and data security standards, milestones not expected until next year.

Intel will follow the release of its 802.11g part with a triple-mode part sometime during the first half of the year. ®

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