Intel Ships 802.11a Chip

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Intel announced this week that, after several delays, its Intel Pro/Wireless 2100A chip is shipping to notebook manufacturers, giving Centrino notebooks an 802.11a connection.

The new chip allows notebook users to connect to 802.11a networks, which operate at a higher frequency than the more popular 802.11b networks that Intel's Centrino technology currently supports. The 802.11a networks operate at a frequency of 5 GHz, which permits them to transfer data at faster rates with less interference but over shorter distances than 802.11b networks.

Most consumers have opted for 802.11b or 802.11g networks, which operate on the widely used 2.4-GHz frequency. The 802.11g networks and 802.11a networks both allow data transfer speeds of up to 54 megabits per second, but real-world results are often closer to 20 mbps.

The 802.11a standard will likely be used in corporate environments or in home media networks.

Dual-Band Support

The Pro/Wireless 2100A chip supports both 802.11a and 802.11b connections. Intel is also working on a chip that supports both 802.11b and 802.11g networks, and the company expects to ship that chip to PC manufacturers before the end of the year, with systems becoming available in the first half of next year, according to an Intel spokesperson. A chip that supports all three standards will follow in the second half of 2004, he said.

The Santa Clara, California, company said it needed additional time to test and validate the 2100A chip in September, when it announced that the chip would be delayed. The spokesperson declined to explain why the additional time was needed. Intel had originally hoped to ship an 802.11a component with the initial Centrino launch in March of this year.

Intel declined to release pricing information for the 2100A chip, but the chip will likely be more expensive than the current 802.11b Pro/Wireless 2100 chip.

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