Broadcom Uses Software to Upgrade 11g

Broadcom of Irvine, CA, one of the first companies
to supply wireless LAN chip sets based on the draft of the 802.11g specification,
has announced a software upgrade that will bring products based on chips using
54g — Broadcom’s name for its implementation of 802.11g — in line with specifications
of the latest version of the actual 11g draft (version 6.1) from the IEEE .

Early 802.11g products, including Broadcom 54g-based
products such as those from Buffalo Technology
and Linksys, have sold amazingly — Linksys alone
shipped 100,000 54g products in the first month of sales. Such products have
also taken a beating in reports that they don’t work well with current 802.11b
products and that 11g performance alone is sub-par. Many blame this on the need
to freeze the design of the early 802.11g chips months ago so they could go
into production. In theory, this latest upgrade to the 6.1 version of the draft
specification should improve performance and interoperability.

The software upgrade is called OneDriver. Jeff Abramowitz, senior director
of marketing for Broadcom’s wireless LAN products, says that while it’s a software
upgrade, "to the access point it looks like firmware, as it runs on the
Broadcom BCM4702 processor."
The name OneDriver comes from the support it provides for multiple standard:

"To the average user [software vs. firmware], it’s not much of a distinction,"
says Abramowitz. "The good news is, it’s a lot easier on a laptop — it’s
much easier to upgrade," rather than flashing a chip.

The OneDriver software has been out to Broadcom’s customers in the retail,
modem and OEM markets that make products using the 54g chip for a while. End
users will have to wait to get the OneDriver upgrade from the vendors of their
54g-based products. According to Abramowitz, Linksys is already providing the
upgrade for its Wireless-G access point (model WAP54G); the Linksys Web site
lists it as firmware v1.06, dated February 18, 2003. Linksys client card
upgrades will follow soon.

In addition to upgrading 54g, Broadcom also announced that the chipset received
Wi-Fi Certification for the 802.11b interoperability portion of the chip. Aaron
Vance, analyst for Synergy Research Group says this
the major news: "Because of the pre-g standard they used, the B only clients
were getting overlooked," says Vance. "They became second priority
in a G environment. I guess now this won’t be the case. B clients will get the
same priority."

This certification is not for the 802.11g interoperability: the Wi-Fi Alliance
has stated its testing of 11g will not start until after the specification is
ratified this summer. The certification is specifically for two reference designs
the company supplies to customers, the BCM94306CB and BCM94306-GAP. Buffalo
Technology has already announced that they separately got Wi-Fi Certification
on the 802.11b interoperability of their 54g products
on these designs.

The IEEE 802.11 Working Group recently gave its approval to the 6.1
draft for 802.11g
, but the specification will remain out for comment for
a few months, with ratification expected by June.

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