Intel embraces next-gen Wi-Fi

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Intel embraces next-gen Wi-Fi

Chipmaker starts shipping draft compliant 802.11n chips.

Intel has become the latest PC manufacturer to embrace 802.11n hardware in its systems. 

The chipmaker will make the wireless technology available in its Centrino notebooks as 'Wireless N' through a mini PCIe card that supports 802.11n as well as the current a, b and g standards.

The wireless standard offers networking speeds up to five times as fast as the current 802.11g. Intel also said that Wireless-N will improve battery life in notebooks by up to one hour.

802.11n is the latest version of the Wi-Fi standard. While it has yet to be formally accepted as an industry standard, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers adopted a new draft of the specification last week. A final version is not expected until next year.  

The Wi-Fi Alliance decided to start certifying gear based on the draft standard last year, following increasing impatience among networking vendors.  

Intel will also kick off its 'Connect with Centrino' certification and logo programme that allows consumers to identify interoperable access points.

The first 802.11n enabled notebooks are expected to ship on 30 January, the day of Microsoft's Windows Vista launch.

Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, told that the current 802.11n standards have yet to be made official, but that Intel is closely involved with the project and should have a good idea of the final specifications. 

The analyst said that users should not worry about Wireless-N compatibility with final 802.11n standards.

But Scherf advised against investing in 802.11n equipment except when consumers require the standard's bandwidth.

"Unless [users] are seeking a media adapter solution, the cautious man's advice is to take a wait-and-see approach," he said.

While users can afford to wait for the final 802.11n specs, Scherf suggested that vendors would be unwise to delay releasing products.

He predicted that the market for 802.11n's streaming video capabilities will be strong enough to lure many customers.

"The performance enhancements with 802.11n are significant enough for a large replacement cycle to take place, and any company that does not get it out there is leaving money on the table," he said.
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