TI Goes Multimode

Dallas, TX-based Texas Instruments , the company behind the so-called 802.11b+ that doubles the speed of 802.11b Wi-Fi network equipment to 22Mbps, has announced a new single-chip Media Access Controller (MAC) and baseband processor with support for multiple IEEE wireless LAN standards, including 802.11a, 802.11b, and the draft for the still in development 802.11g.

The chip is called the TNETW1130 and its claim to fame is a technology TI is calling Auto-Band. It provides the chip with instant interoperability between the three different OSI physical layers available to it from 802.11a, b, and g (the latter with full 54Mbps support).

“It’s like Ethernet, [where] you don’t need to know whether you’ve got 10 or 100BaseT. This is same analogy,” says Bill Carney, Business Development Director of Wireless Networking at TI. “This profile based service finds whatever is available — if you’re in a mobile application where battery is important, you can say, ‘give me 11b with low power mode,’ or ‘find whatever the fastest data rate is.’ It’s an ease of use component.” Unlike the auto-sensing of Ethernet, however, users have to set up these profiles ahead of time so Auto-Band can take advantage of them.

In September this year, TI announced the TNETW1100B, the smaller next generation of its 16x16mm ACX100 chip currently in products today from like D-Link, SMC Networks, and US Robotics. While smaller and targeted to embedded use in products like cellular phone handsets, the TNETW1100B MAC/baseband chip is available in a pin-for-pin ACX100 compatible package — same for the new TNEETW1130. Both TNETW11xx chips share the 12×12 mm size.

Each of TI’s chips will continue to use Packet Binary Convolutional Code (PBCC) modulation to deliver 22Mbps data rates. All the TI chips supports Complementary Code Keying (CCK) operation to boost speeds even when used with other 802.11b chip sets and support wired equivalent privacy (WEP) encryption up to 256-bit.

The TNETW1130 adds Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) security on top of that, and will included Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) support when that 802.11i subset is ready in early 2003. Carney says the chip will be fully 802.11i compliant when it’s done.

Other draft standard support include an Quality of Service (QoS) engine for improving video and voice over IP performance, based on the 802.11e draft specification.

Similar to its sibling the TNETW1100B, the new chip also features enhanced low-power technology that launches a standby mode for the chip when not in use. The designs come with complete packages that will be Wi-Fi certified and Microsoft Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) compatible.

Because the chip an be used in either single mode or multimode configurations, TI’s reference designs will come in different modes with support for different PHY layers as needed by customers. Some of the announced designs include an 11g PC Card and access point, and 11a/g PC Card and miniPCI cards.

“Eventually the market will be dominated by need for seamless connectivity, no matter what the band,” says Carney. “We’re trying to be proactive for roaming.”

Samples of the TNETW1130 should be available in December with volume production to follow — TI expects products with the chip will be available by April 2003. The estimated bill of materials cost to equipment manufacturers is less than $23 for a CardBus NIC with 802.11g support, and less than $28 for the same with 802.11a/g.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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