AMD Debuts Tiny, Low-Power 802.11b Chipset

By Eric Grevstad

November 04, 2002

In addition to making both Athlon XP processors for notebook PCs and highly integrated CPUs for handheld and communications devices, AMD wants to provide wireless networking silicon for both -- and makes its debut in the WLAN market with a battery-thrifty, reduced-chip-count 802.11b chipset due to ship in the first quarter of 2003.

Company To Pursue Both WiFi OEMs and Current Notebook PC Partners

While high-end laptop PCs or deep-pocketed commercial users will move to faster 802.11a and 802.11g wireless networking by 2004, AMD predicts, today's 802.11b WiFi technology will soon be a staple of everything from PDAs and cell phones to car-dashboard information systems -- and an ultra-efficient and -compact new WiFi chipset from AMD will help make it so.

The chipmaker's Personal Connectivity Solutions group has announced sample availability of the Alchemy Solutions Am1772 WLAN chipset, plus a reference design kit for a WiFi adapter that takes only one side of a 2.8 by 1.8-inch Mini PCI card. By contrast, AMD points out, rivals like Agere Systems use both sides of a card, making the Am1772 a prime candidate for combo products and other implementations expected when production quantities ship in the first quarter of 2003.

According to the company, the two-chip Am1772 solution combines an integrated baseband processor/media access controller (MAC), with direct-memory-access (DMA) host interface and on-chip hardware acceleration to reduce the host CPU load, and a CMOS RF transceiver with no need for a separate intermediate-frequency chip. An all-digital interface between the two chips helps eliminate the need for an on-chip microcontroller and external flash memory and SRAM.

Though pricing has not been established, AMD says the chipset will let OEMs lower device costs by using fewer components, as well as extending battery life through lower power consumption. The company promises to court both embedded manufacturing partners, such as Ambit and Z-Com, and its mobile CPU customers with additional wireless networking products in the months ahead: By the second half of 2003, AMD hints, not only will it add an 802.11a+b/g chipset to the Alchemy Solutions line, but 802.11b will have joined USB, Ethernet, LCD and memory controllers, and other capabilities in its system-on-a-chip (SOC) MIPS processors such as the current Alchemy Au1100.

Eric Grevstad is managing editor of sister sites, CPU Planet and HardwareCentral.

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