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Intel touts 'tuneable' Wi-Fi radio chip

Prototype produced

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Intel has developed a WLAN transceiver capable of tuning in to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands used by 802.11b/g and 802.11a Wi-Fi networks, respectively, with its own silicon-built radio.

Multi-mode WLAN chipsets are not uncommon. Intel's breakthrough is to develop a radio chip that is not only produced using a cheap CMOS process but can operate across both bands as necessary. Current WLAN radios are produced either by a pricey bipolar process or CMOS, and crucially are hard-wired for a specific network type.

Intel's goal is to develop a CMOS radio chip that can switch between any radio configuration. The chip giant's latest device doesn't meet that target, but the ability to switch between two configurations is a step in the right direction.

Intel's prototype part, which comprises a number of chips mounted together in a single package, was detailed in a paper presented to the Symposium on VLSI Technology in Kyoto, Japan, last week.

The device operates at 1.4V - below the operating voltage of many of today's WLAN chips - in receive mode. To transmit, however, it needs twin 1.4V and a third, 3.3V supplies, and consumes 800mW of power. In receive mode it consumes up to 170mW of power.

The device was fabbed using Intel's standard 90nm process, the company said. The device has the capacity to deliver the higher data transfer rates set to be supported by the upcoming 802.11n next-generation Wi-Fi standard. ®

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