wONE WLAN to Support Them All

By Eric Griffith

January 05, 2004

TI hopes that its new 'universal router' technology with a single chipset and radio to provide dual-band capabilities will be a singular sensation with hardware vendors.

As prices continue to drop on wireless LAN equipment for the home and SOHO market, one area stays somewhat pricey: dual-band hardware that supports both the 2.4GHz 802.11b/g and the 5GHz 802.11a. Most access point and router products on the market need two 'chains' of chips to get this kind of support.

Dallas-based Texas Instruments (TI) said on Monday that with its new wONE (pronounced "won") Universal Router technology, it can get this performance (and include support for their more proprietary 802.11b+ and 11g+ modes) for a price similar to most single-mode router products -- supposedly only a few dollars more than an 802.11g router costs today.

They expect it to fill the price delta between more expensive 11a products and cheap 11b/g products, without hitting the high ceiling that currently exists for dual-band products.

This solution works with existing TI products -- the Medium Access Controller (MAC) with baseband (BB), and radio chips, plus a TI central processor like the TNETW5306.

"Starting in 2004 you're going to see 802.11 proliferate in multimedia applications," says Lucy Huang, the product line manager for TI's Wireless Networking Business Unit. But she says the 802.11b/g range, while great for data, would be too "noisy" for realtime video applications, which 802.11a can deliver. Thus she sees wONE being put to work for mixed media in the home. She added that in TI's in-house tests, the wONE has been more than adequate for streaming media and video.

The products will use two separate queues to handle traffic from the 5GHz band and the 2.4GHz band, using a patented time-domain switching technology.

"At any given time the software on board is generating traffic in the 11a band or 11b/g band, but listening to both," says Huang.

She admits this will cut the aggregate throughput from say 40Mbps with 11a and 11g clients connecting, down to a maximum of 28Mbps. TI figures the price savings will make it worthwhile for the SOHO, telecommuter, and even the hotspot market.

"Customers interested in the technology or with an investment in existing 802.11a or b cards won't worry -- with wONE you walk into a CompUSA or Fry's and the consumers who don't know very much about a/b/g differences will see... a product that for only ten dollars more supports all the letters of the alphabet, guaranteed to work," says Huang.

TI is hoping wONE will open up new customer paths and is pitching the technology as part of an AP Design Kit version 5.1 to its current original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers including D-Link, Netgear, Linksys, and Belkin, in hopes that wONE will provide them with faster times to market with future dual-band products. Vendors could choose to offer products with wONE on board in a single-mode version and then offer software for a fee that would "upgrade" the system to go dual-band. How the final products come to the market is up to the OEM.

The current wONE software architecture is set to work with the aforementioned TNETW5306 CPU though it isn't required to use the wONE software. What is required are TI's TNETW1130 MAC/BB chip and RC2432/RC2436 radio chipset. Existing TI products can be upgraded to use wONE's dual-band support.

The company expects some products based on wONE to ship as early as the end of the first quarter of this year. They'll be showcasing it at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas.

Originally published on .

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