RealTime IT News

TI Helps Vendor Break Wi-Fi Speed Limits

Buffalo Technology (USA) Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nagoya, Japan-based Melco Inc., on Wednesday became the first equipment vendor to adapt Texas Instruments' ACX100 technology for commercial usage in an attempt to increase data transmission rates using the 2.4GHz spectrum beyond the 11 megabits per second (Mbps) as outlined by the IEEE's 802.11b specification.

Melco unveiled the next generation of its Buffalo wireless LAN (WLAN) series, the AirStation 2x, as a follow-up to its original wireless LAN product, which was introduced in January 1999 and last updated in April 2000. Using the ACX100 chip set, the line will initially include the standard bridge access point model, WLA-T22G (priced at $219) and the wireless card bus adapter, WLI-CB-T22G ($99). The two will ship in the fourth quarter. By the first quarter of 2002, Melco hopes to ship the integrated broadband router model, WLAR-T22G-L, for ADSL/CATV modems and Internet sharing.

Rarely are product introductions earth-shattering news. In fact, data is already transmitting at 54 Mbps through the uncluttered 5GHz spectrum on 802.11a-based WLAN equipment that is expected to hit the market soon. Yet, Melco's adoption of TI technology is significant for two reasons. Not only has TI vaulted over market participants in terms of data transmission speed but it has also leapfrogged over a key competitor in becoming the first to get a product out to the WLAN market. In doing so, TI may have reversed its fortunes and greatly increased its long-term viability in a market that nearly everyone forecasts will explode.

The new product line represents a significant departure from existing 802.11b equipment on the market, which (until recently) has been restricted from transmitting data at a speed faster than 11 Mbps. But last spring, the Federal Communications Commission unexpectedly opened the 2.4GHz band to newer technologies. Just days after the FCC's surprise ruling in May, TI decided to take the FCC up on its newly relaxed stance and applied to certify technology that would allow faster data rates. The Dallas-based semiconductor giant, subsequently, unveiled its ACX100 chip set in June.

But the product announcement also comes two weeks before the IEEE is finally set to ratify a modulation scheme proposed by Intersil to become the official standard for 802.11g, which will allow for data rates of up to 54 Mbps in the 2.4GHz band. Last spring, TI lost out to Intersil in proposing a standard for 802.11g and has been filibustering throughout the summer to block the adoption of Intersil's proposal as an industry standard. By the fall when the bipartisan, procedural quagmire was nearly resolved, the ratification was again delayed -- this time due to the events of Sept. 11.

Now, with the Melco announcement, TI has beat Intersil to market with products that can deliver data at the so-called "turbo" rates. Buffalo's new line is expected to be "our first of many customer announcements," said Marisa Speziale, TI spokesperson.

The product line is expected to be fully compatible with all pre-existing 802.11b equipment.