TI Helps Vendor Break Wi-Fi Speed Limits

Buffalo Technology (USA) Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nagoya,
Japan-based Melco Inc., on Wednesday became the first equipment vendor to
adapt Texas Instruments’ ACX100 technology for commercial usage in an
attempt to increase data transmission rates using the 2.4GHz spectrum beyond
the 11 megabits per second (Mbps) as outlined by the IEEE’s 802.11b
specification.

Melco unveiled the next generation of its Buffalo wireless LAN (WLAN)
series, the AirStation 2x, as a follow-up to its original wireless LAN
product, which was introduced in January 1999 and last updated in April
2000. Using the ACX100 chip set, the line will initially include the
standard bridge access point model, WLA-T22G (priced at $219) and the
wireless card bus adapter, WLI-CB-T22G ($99). The two will ship in the
fourth quarter. By the first quarter of 2002, Melco hopes to ship the
integrated broadband router model, WLAR-T22G-L, for ADSL/CATV modems and
Internet sharing.

Rarely are product introductions earth-shattering news. In fact, data is
already transmitting at 54 Mbps through the uncluttered 5GHz spectrum on
802.11a-based WLAN equipment
that is expected to hit the market soon.
Yet, Melco’s adoption of TI technology is significant for two reasons. Not
only has TI vaulted over market participants in terms of data transmission
speed but it has also leapfrogged over a key competitor in becoming the
first to get a product out to the WLAN market. In doing so, TI may have
reversed its fortunes and greatly increased its long-term viability in a
market that nearly everyone forecasts will explode.

The new product line represents a significant departure from existing
802.11b equipment on the market, which (until recently) has been restricted
from transmitting data at a speed faster than 11 Mbps. But last spring, the
Federal Communications Commission unexpectedly opened the 2.4GHz band to newer technologies. Just days
after the FCC’s surprise ruling in May, TI decided to take the FCC up on its
newly relaxed stance and applied to certify
technology that would allow faster data rates. The Dallas-based
semiconductor giant, subsequently, unveiled its
ACX100 chip set
in June.

But the product announcement also comes two weeks before the IEEE is
finally set to ratify a modulation scheme proposed by Intersil to become the
official standard for 802.11g, which will allow for data rates of up to 54
Mbps in the 2.4GHz band. Last spring, TI lost
out
to Intersil in proposing a standard for 802.11g and has been
filibustering throughout the summer
to block the adoption of Intersil’s
proposal as an industry standard. By the fall when the bipartisan,
procedural quagmire was nearly resolved, the ratification was again
delayed — this time
due to the events of Sept. 11
.

Now, with the Melco announcement, TI has beat Intersil to market with
products that can deliver data at the so-called “turbo” rates. Buffalo’s new
line is expected to be “our first of many customer announcements,” said
Marisa Speziale, TI spokesperson.

The product line is expected to be fully compatible with all pre-existing
802.11b equipment.

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