Agere Announces Low-Cost 802.11abg Chip

By Eric Griffith

March 10, 2003

With partner Infineon, Agere is taking the WaveLAN family multi-mode with a dual-band, single radio set of chips supporting 54Mbps in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.

Agere Systems of Allentown, PA, announced today that it will be manufacturing a new WaveLAN multi-mode chipset supporting both 5GHz 802.11a and 2.4GH 802.11b and (in time for its final ratification) 11g, for production later this year.

Agere plans to keep this new WaveLAN chip set small. Tony Grewe, director of strategic marketing in client systems at Agere claims the combined die size of the chipset is smaller than the 802.11b-only solutions from most competitors. The radio frequency (RF) transceiver (WL54040) itself is a single chip supporting both 5 and 2.5GHz; the entire 3chip set (with MAC, baseband, and radio) will have less than 100 components (compared to 200 with competitors, says Grewe), keeping the overall bill of materials (BOM) for the chips lower.

The chipset will also include support for Wi-Fi Protected Access, AES encryption (which will be required eventually in the 802.11i security specification, coming later this year) and the recently announced Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), which ensures that client systems will work with Cisco infrastructure equipment.

While the chipset would work for client NICs or access points, Grewe says this product "is much more of a client play. At the access point you want more of a dedicated solution. You don't want to run a triple play access point because you can't run all three [modes] at the same time." Interfaces will include Cardbus, MiniPCI, PC Card, PCI, Compact Flash and USB.

The price is also expected to come in low; Grewe estimates it will be cheaper than their 802.11b solution, which was around $15 per chipset for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and Original Design Manufacturers (ODM).

Agere will be demonstrating the dual-band RF transceiver later this month at the CeBIT 2003 show in Hannover, Germany. Silicon will go to sampling customers in the second quarter, and reference designs using the chip should be available by the third quarter. Agere expects to be lined up for testing with the chip by the Wi-Fi Alliance at the same time they finalize a methodology for testing 802.11g.

This chip is a result of the partnership Agere announced in October 2002 with Infineon Technologies of Munich, Germany to jointly develop 802.11 chips and reference designs. Agere provides the multi-mode MACs and drivers; Infineon handles the technology side of the radios and power amplifiers.



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