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Intel reveals wireless connectivity roadmap

Wi-Fi N, WiMAX and HSDPA on laptops next year

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Comment Intel has used the platform of its developer conference to reveal a roadmap for future wireless connectivity that will take in at least three different types of broadband connectivity for PCs.

Intel has long made it clear that it will support WiMAX in its next generation onboard radio chips, but is now also adding a 3G HSDPA option, in collaboration with Nokia.

This will mean that sometime in 2007 top end Intel laptops will be able to work with the new 802.11n Wi-fi system, with WiMAX and with cellular networks, straight out of the box.

And this time this is no fly-by night partial roadmap from one small group inside Intel, this is a straight up announcement to developers telling them to get ready for a new era of permanent PC connectivity.

This announcement sends many messages. It says that Intel has finally understood that the owners of HSDPA networks are also likely to be the big WiMAX users, and may want to offer roaming capability, in effect some UMTS cellcos will go down the WiMAX route, others down the HSDPA route, and some will use both technologies in different ways.

Whatever they use, Intel is now making their life easier to sign up new customers, since laptops and anything else Intel comes up with, such as palm sized computers, promised in the same timeframe, will have the onboard radio equipment to make any kind of connection that is required.

But it also means that Nokia and Intel have just undercut an entire body of plug-in card suppliers that have made it their main business offering PCMCIA and USB cards offering connectivity. Intel is going to control overnight just as many radio chips, possibly more, than any single handset maker.

Intel will come to dominate onboard PC radio chips in the same way that it dominates motherboards, in the same way it took over the client Wi-Fi chip market, by creating Centrino in the first place.

The other big change that is coming is the feeling of always being connected. This time it is PCs that genuinely are always connected, even when traveling, and that in turn should have a profound effect on the way that customers work and consume entertainment on their PCs.

The increase in the speed of all forms of connectivity, with HSDPA now at around 1.5 Mbps rising later to 14 Mbps in subsequent generations, and WiMAX flexible with most network likely to be around the speed of fixed DSL, and the shorter range 802.11n ramping up to 100 Mbps.

Intel outlined to the Developer Forum the Kedron family of chips, including a dualmode Wi-Fi/WiMAX chipset and one supporting 100Mbps plus 802.11n, both due in 2007 and demonstrated the next generation Centrino Duo platform, scheduled for introduction in the first half of 2007, which will improve upon the Intel Core 2 Duo processor by offering new power saving capabilities and a faster front-side bus from 667MHz up to 800MHz, which is all about offering greater energy efficiency to save on the laptop battery.

The product will contain a new Wi-Fi radio that will be compliant with the emerging 802.11n specification.

To ensure that its 802.11n capable chipset will interwork with other pre-standard 802.11n products, Intel is carrying out cooperative testing with Wi-Fi equipment makers Netgear, DLink, Linksys and Buffalo. Also being tested is Ofer-R, a product that will offer the world's first combined Wi-Fi and WiMAX radio chipset by 2008.

The new Centrino will add some Intel vPro capabilities currently available on business desktop PCs, such as Active Management Technology to improve asset management, system security and availability.

The new systems will also include Intel's flash memory-based accelerator, and a new integrated graphics core. The Santa Rosa chip is based on the Core 2 Duo chips for ultramobile PCs, and these will consume half as much power as Intel's current mobile designs but at one-quarter the size.

Copyright © 2006, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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