Multiple Channels = High Capacity

By Eric Griffith

April 15, 2003

Wireless chip maker Engim's first silicon will allow for simultaneous communications on multiple channels from the same access point.

Acton, MA-based Engim is ready stop maintaining a low profile. The company has announced the EN-3000, a wireless LAN switching chipset that it claims provides a higher capacity for future Wi-Fi networks. It will get this capacity by utilizing multiple channels simultaneously.

"We're designing silicon that can go in access points --or whatever they'll be called in the future -- so they can work on all channels at all times," says Engim's vice president of marketing, Scott Lindsay. "Picture it as a bunch of access points in one shell."

Lindsay says the company's chips are specifically for the infrastructure side of things, not for clients. They are not building the EN-3000 to be low power. The goal is simply to make sure that the shared bandwidth on an access point isn't impacted by multiple users.

"The aggregate throughput starts to come down to what the weakest link is," says Lindsay. "Single channel is like a one lane highway -- no one can communicate until the first one is done."

Supporting multiple channels is like adding "lanes to the highway." That way users connected at higher data rates can stay there, even if someone at a longer range connects at a slower rate.

The EN-3000 set fits on a miniPCI card and can be used in many access points made today, according to Lindsay. The chip will take advantage of existing antennas.

The chipset, when used in multiple access points deployed close together, can also mitigate interference from the collocation.

"The shortcoming of today's products is that they only look at a narrow piece of the RF spectrum at a time. We look at everything, all the time, which means you have a complete view of the network," says Lindsay.

The EN-3000 chipset consists of an RF front end with either 2.4 or 5GHz radio support, an analog baseband, and a digital baseband/MAC. This three chip solution can support 3 channels for 802.11b/g or 3 channels of 802.11a -- the potential is there for 162Mbps in total bandwidth.

Moving to a five chip version (by adding a second radio front end and analog baseband) would allow for the same bandwidth but with any mix of three channels of 11a/b/g. Add another digital bb/MAC (six chips total) jumps to three channels for 11a, three for 11b/g, and total potential bandwidth of 324Mbps. The extreme: a nine chip solution with six channels for 11a, three for 11b/g, and you've got 486Mbps in total bandwidth for your end users.

The chipsets comes with a rudimentary software interface for development partners to use for control and management of EN-3000 based access points; Lindsay says they may eventually do a full-bore extravagant product. For now though they leave it to partners to put their own value-add interface touches in play for end-user customers.

The EN-3000 is available now.

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