Agere Chip Combines Baseband and Radio

Agere Systems of Allentown, PA, has announced the WL1141 physical layer (PHY) module, which integrates baseband capabilities with an 802.11b 2.4GHz radio on a single chip.

The new chip is targeted at original equipment manufacturers with little or no radio frequency experience, to help them get a jump start on integrating wireless LAN functions into new products such as consumer electronics and new WLAN clients.

“The big thing for home electronics is time to market,” say Frank Ferro, senior manager for wireless marketing at Agere Systems. “We’re doing the heavy lifting on the RF for our customers. It saves them a lot of the hard stuff in board layout. The module’s attractive because it’s a newer market and they can get in there quickly.”

The WL1141 measures 25x25x2.4 millimeters and baseband processing and the radio module, but does not incorporate an antenna or Media Access Controller (MAC) layer . Agere has a separate chip with MAC that works with the WL1141.

“We did not include the MAC — there’s many applications we’re trying to service and we wanted customers to have the flexibility to move the MAC around,” says Ferro. “Some customers want to embed the MAC into hardware like an ASIC on the system, so it’s more freedom.”

Ferro says MACs from other manufactures would probably work with the WL1141, but it’s targeted toward Agere’s own MAC.

The WL1141 will be fully compliant with the IEEE 802.11b specification. When asked about the possibilities of 802.11a or dual-band chips of a similar nature, Ferro said, “As we come out with each of our chips we’ll have parallel roadmaps for 802.11 or dual-band.”

The WL1141 will be sampling to some select customers in November with more to be added in January 2003. That same quarter of next year should see volume production. Agere plans to price the chip at $16 each in limited quantities.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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