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Agere Brings Back WaveLAN

Agere Systems is not in the equipment business.

That's the message the integrated circuit (IC) provider is trying to get out now. The company, which spun out of AT&T/Lucent (the originators of the wireless LAN market years ago), sold off its ORiNOCO product business to former rival Proxim this summer. Now, in conjunction with the launch of a new media access controller (MAC) chip, the company is bringing back the original chip branding, WaveLAN, that started it all in 1990.

Agere wants the word to go out to potential customers for its chips, modules and reference designs that it's ready to be a provider, not a competitor, to the product designers.

"If you look at where we played, we were in end to end solutions," says Tony Grewe, the director of strategic marketing for Agere's Client Systems business, of the company's past efforts. "We self selected ourselves out of the market by providing not just chips and cards but also end-user equipment. We competed with the customers we'll have today."

"We have production ready reference designs and a full IP (intellectual property) portfolio and can help with regulatory matters," by taking advantage of Agere's positions on committees within bodies like the FCC and IEEE .

The WaveLAN brand is making its return to the entire Agere chip portfolio as the company announces a new MAC chip, the WL60010. The chip has a programmable host interface, one megabyte of on-chip memory, a glueless interface that lets it talk to Agere's line of 802.11b radio chips. The WL60010, which is sampling now and should ship in volume before the end of the year, will be compatible with multimode solutions and have full support for the new Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security recently announced by the Wi-Fi Alliance, of which Agere Systems is a board member.

"What we're trying to put out is the WaveLAN brand that, to a large extent, launched wireless LANs," says Grewe. "We took the name when we spun out from Lucent, and this new focus on chips and modules seemed like a perfect time to use this brand."

Agere wants original design manufacturers (ODMs) the world over to know it's ready to play ball with its former competitors. They've already signed deals with many Taiwan-based ODMs, such as Accton Technology, Ambit Microsystems, Askey Computer, CyberTAN Technology and Universal Scientific Industries.

Each will be using Agere reference designs and silicon to create new lines of 802.11-based WLAN products. The WaveLAN reference design portfolio includes miniPCI, PC Card, USB, Compact Flash, Card Bus, and PCI clients.

"We've changed our model and want to make sure there's no confusion about it," says Grewe.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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