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Chip start-up boosts Wi-Fi rate by '10-20 times'

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As chipmakers fight to prove they can stretch the range and rate of Wi-Fi well beyond the standard, start-up Engim has enlisted research from the Tolly Group testing company to back up its claims.

It has released test results commissioned from Tolly that show a prototype access point, based on Engim's Wi-Fi chipset and Intel's network processor, performing at 10 to 20 times greater throughput than other APs with conventional WLAN chipsets. Theoretically, Engim claims its products could boost AP performance by up to 50 times.

Current dual-mode 802.11 'a' and 'b' access points use only one of Wi-Fi's 11 RF channels at a time, with users taking turns. The Engim chipset can 'see' all 11 at once, and can use the three non-overlapping ones (1, 6 and 11) in parallel, increasing total throughput and enabling features to be incorporated in silicon that are usually implemented, at extra cost and performance degradation, in software.

Cross-channel interference is reduced through the use of digital signal processing across the whole 802.11x spectrum. This filters out and cancels out the interference to clean up the channels and make all of them useable in a single access point, at the same time.

The Tolly Group tests mixed and matched a number of 11g and 11b clients with three third party access points, and to the Engim prototype using the EN-3000 11g chipset. The clients performed between 1Mbps and 3Mbps when in a mixed network with the third party APs, but reached almost 50Mbps using the Engim.

The tests also demonstrated that including even one 11b client on a network dragged down the performance of a single channel 11g network to 'b' speeds, something that Engim technology claims to mitigate by using multiple channels.

However, Engim's silicon will not be available until the third or fourth quarter and it will be facing challenges from other start-ups seeking to boost Wi-Fi performance, such as the smart antenna-oriented Airgo, as well as taking on the ambitious task of chipping away at the installed base of Broadcom and Atheros, which have performance boosting technologies of their own.

Engim was founded by a group of silicon design experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Motorola and Texas Instruments, is backed by Bessemer Venture Partners and Matrix Partners.

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Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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