Agere Claims Boost to 150Mbps

Agere Systems of Allentown, Pa., is the latest of the Wi-Fi chipset vendors to announce plans for a speed boost that goes beyond the current 802.11 specifications.

Agere’s WaveLAN dual-band (802.11a/b/g) chips will receive this unnamed “turbo mode” via a software overlay. The technology is based on future standards for Quality of Service (QoS) and packet bursting that will be found in the 802.11e specification. 802.11e is expected to be ratified sometime this year.

The company also plans to build in compression that it says could push real-world transmission rates between clients and infrastructure equipment as high as 150 megabits per second (Mbps).

Agere’s director of Wi-Fi marketing, Frank Ferro, says his company’s turbo mode is building on an already high base rate of 25Mbps, which it achieves with “improved receiver sensitivity and overall power. “Then we put on pieces of Quality of Service. We try to remove some overhead. Then on top we add data compression. Add all those things up and we can go to 150Mbps — maybe higher depending on the compression algorithms.”

Agere’s use of compression requires the same chipset on either end of the link, on the access point and client.

Agere stresses that it is avoiding channel bonding techniques. This is technology found in the “Super G” speed boost that competitor Atheros Communications has available in some chipsets. Companies like Broadcom have complained that channel bonding in Super G causes interference with other nearby wireless networks.

While the QoS technology Agere is using is based on a future standard, Ferro says the compression is completely proprietary, as there’s no compression built into any of the 802.11 specifications. He feels that Agere’s experiences building compression into modems in the past serves them well.

While Atheros’ Super G as well as other speed boosts from Broadcom and Conexant all use 802.11e as a basis, chances of the various products interoperating at the advanced speeds is slim to none. All of the products can fall back to standard 54Mbps speeds found in 802.11a and 11g, however.

Agere’s chips have traditionally been focused on the enterprise market, according to Philip Solis, senior analyst at Allied Business Intelligence (ABI). He says speed boosts like this probably won’t get traction in the enterprise.

“[Enterprises] want standard equipment,” says Solis. “They usually roll out thousands of devices depending on the size of the company and tend to wait for the standards.”

Solis believes that is why enterprises are still using 802.11b while home networkers started buying faster 802.11g equipment before it was even finalized.

Ferro says Agere is expanding beyond its standard markets of the past, however. “We’re looking at other segments. We’re strong in PDAs and a lot of embedded products. There are many areas where Wi-FI is growing.”

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