Encryption On The Chip

Palo Alto, CA-based Integrated Programmable Communications (InProComm) has announced a new baseband/medium access controller (MAC) chip for use in 802.11b-based products. The IPC2120, which should go into sampling to customers this month, will feature a built-in, hardware-based Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) engine.

The company has three reference designs for the chip, working with different radio frequency (RF) and power amplifier (PA) chips from companies like Maxim and Philips.

“We were very conscious of the applications of the chip, hand held or notebook or access point, and our current power levels are very low,” says Craig Conkling, Director of Marketing at InProComm.

The IPC2120 chip will support 64- and 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) in addition to AES, and will be compliant with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) when that becomes ready around February 2003. While security features were important to the company, cost was also a major factor.

“We were looking at low cost — we knew the 802.11b market would be aggressive in that respect,” says Conkling. “We created a high performance chip in a very small die sizeit has a low cost structure so it can move forward in the market.” The company claims to use up to 35% fewer components than most 802.11b chipset designs, and thus saves on the bill-of-materials (BOM) costs by 20 to 30%.

Conkling says that some production silicon will be sampling by around December 15. They expect products supporting host interfaces for miniPCI and CardBus PC Card form factors to be certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Microsoft Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL), and the FCC in time for full production. That should begin in the first quarter of 2003. Firmware and drivers will be available for versions of Linux and Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP.

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