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Nat Semi touts Bluetooth-beating low-power Wi-Fi chipset

Long on claims, short on details

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National Semiconductor has developed a low-power Wi-Fi chipset that, it claims, brings the wireless networking technology into range of applications once considered suitable only for Bluetooth.

The chipset has the potential to "significantly" reduce Wi-Fi power consumption, according to Ahmad Bahai, CTO of Nat Semi's wireless operation, in an eWeek interview,

At this stage the technology is still in the company's labs - the company has yet to decide whether it will bring the chipset to market. And beyond its broad capabilities, Bahia doesn't give much away in the way of specific details.

Bluetooth's one key benefit over Wi-Fi is its much lower power consumption. That makes it suitable for a range of battery-powered devices, most notably mobile phones and PDAs. Wi-Fi chip designers are making progress reducing the power draw of 802.11 radios, but they have yet to reach quite as low as Bluetooth.

Doing so would provide such devices with much better data rates than they currently offer and arguably superior networking technology.

That Nat Semi has achieved the goal will be good news for Wi-Fi proponents who see the technology displacing Bluetooth. There's one heck of a Bluetooth installed base out there, thanks to its adoption in the devices mentioned above. Not that most Bluetooth-equipped handset owners make use of the technology, of course. Low-power Wi-Fi would allow them to tap into hotspot networks for Internet access.

Of course, Nat Semi's claims have yet to be judged, and we'll have to wait until it publishes details of the technology before that can happen. ®

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