Broadcom Covers More Area

No one ever said Wi-Fi was perfect. It suffers from difficult setup, questionable security, interference from appliances, and doesn’t always stretch its signal as far as advertised. Various camps are working on all of these items; that last one—signal coverage—is addressed this week by chipmaker Broadcom with a new technology it will be building into future 802.11g chips.

BroadRange is a signal processing technology built into the baseband chip that will (according to Broadcom) increase the range of products using it by 50 percent.

“You’ll see improvements no matter what chips you have on the client side, or on the access point side,” says Jeff Abramowitz, senior director of marketing at Broadcom.

BroadRange will initially be built into only two chips, the 802.11g BCM4318E and the system-on-chip BCM5352E. Both chips have versions without the extended signal technology.

BroadRange gives Broadcom something to compete directly with rival Atheros’ eXtended Range (XR) technology. With XR, users need Atheros equipment on both the client and AP end of the connection to get extra-long-distance support.

Atheros calls XR “standards interoperable” [corrected from saying “standards interoperable,” which is what Broadcom claims for BroadRange – Ed.] in its white paper on the technology, which Abramowitz says is the telling factor, claiming that having a single XR client on the network would bring down overall WLAN performance.

Like XR, BroadRange uses no special antennas — all the advanced technology is done with digital signal processing on the chip. New products supporting MIMO with chips from Airgo do require extra, specialized antennas to get not only extended range but also more throughput.

Broadcom’s BCM4318E chip is in production now, and the SoC BCM5352E is sampling with customers. They expect that the first products using BroadRange will be out in the first quarter of 2005.

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