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Samsung notebooks to sport Airgo Wi-Fi booster

Centrino dropped for MIMO

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Computex 2005 Samsung is to equip two of its wireless-enabled notebooks with Airgo's bandwidth-boosting 'multiple input, multiple output' (MIMO) Wi-Fi technology, the two companies announced at Computex 2005 this week.

The move puts Samsung's X20 and X25 machines among the first notebooks to support what is likely to become the 802.11n standard for wired-speed wireless networking.

It's also a blow for Intel, which had counted the X20 and X25 among the list of Centrino-based notebooks. The X20 and X25 will continue to use the Pentium M processor and Intel system logic, but the shift from Intel Wi-Fi silicon to Airgo's will result in a significant wireless performance gain. According to independent real-world testing conducted by The Tolly Group (TTG) for Airgo, the incorporation of the fabless semiconductor company's 'True MIMO' chipset improves performance when Airgo's technology powers both ends of the wireless link but also when the Samsung notebooks connect to a regular access point.

TTG's numbers point to an almost fourfold gain effective throughput when connecting to a standard Linksys access point, rising to an increase in effective throughput of over 650 per cent with an Airgo-enabled Linksys box. The results reveal comparable gains in the WLAN's coverage area.

The X20 and X25 remain fully compatible with standard 802.11a/b/g access points, Airgo president and CEO Greg Raleigh told The Register.

One frequency, multiple signals

MIMO uses multiple radios to transmit multiple standard-speed signals in a single 20MHz channel. Unlike other MIMO offerings, Airgo's system leverages the way these signals interfere as they are scattered by obstacles in their environment to drive further range and bandwidth gains. Spatial multiplexing schemes put the data sent out across these signals back together again.

Raleigh said Airgo is the only company to take this approach. Competitors may use the word 'MIMO' but they are not true MIMO implementations, he said.

The Samsung machines use Airgo's second-generation Wi-Fi chipset, which offers more than double the energy efficiency of Intel's rival chipset, said Dave Borison, director of product management. The secret, he said, is the use of a pricey but efficient Bipolar CMOS process to fab the chipset's three radios. "We can run three radios in the same power envelope than other Wi-Fi chipsets run one radio in," he said.

Borison said Airgo's product roadmap would deliver enhanced energy efficiency, better bandwidth and lower bill-of-materials costs going over time.

Airgo has positioned its products at the high end of the Wi-Fi arena, not least because MIMO technology's much-improved range and bandwidth don't come cheap, and it's a far less crowded segment of the Wi-Fi chip market than the low-end. That said, sources familiar with Airgo's plans expect the company to begin pushing down into the mid-range and taking the fight to the likes of Atheros and Broadcom more aggressively.

Raleigh and Borison would not comment on the company's immediate plans, but it's clear the company is pushing hard to broaden its customer base beyond the consumer WLAN arena into consumer electronics and ultimately other wireless markets. Airgo's advantage is its lead in MIMO development, built on its founders' pioneering work on the technology.

That also led to Airgo champion MIMO as the basis for the next generation of the 802.11 WLAN standard. Today, 802.11n has yet to emerge as a single specification, let alone a ratified standard. However, Airgo's shipping product already supports both of the two, similar proposed specifications for the new standard, said Raleigh, and will work with the merged spec that will ultimately be ratified by the IEEE. ®

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Belkin out on a limb with 802.11n?
WiFi Alliance warns chip makers over 802.11n claims
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