Intersil Shipping Second Gen of 11g

By Eric Griffith

May 16, 2003

Intersil's 802.11g-only chipset, PRISM GT, is now shipping to OEMs with support for the latest version of the 11g draft, WPA/802.1X and a few other bells and whistles.

Compared to the trickle of 802.11a products that were out at this time last year, it feels like 802.11g -- which has the same 54Mbps speed as 11a but backwards compatibility with the ubiquitous 802.11b -- has become the mainstream these days for home and small to medium businesses (SMB). So much so that, even before the 802.11g specification is fully ratified by the IEEE the second generation of chips supporting it is already on the way.

Specifically, Intersil is now shipping the latest silicon for its PRISM GT chip set to OEM and ODM customers. It supports revision 8.1 of the 802.11g draft, the latest to come out of the IEEE's 802.11g Task Group.

The chipset will also feature better power management -- 75% better than some currently available 802.11g products according to Intersil -- making for lower overall power consumption.

The new version of GT supports the company's SingleSource Driver Suite, which will include support for PRISM Nitro, a software-based speed upgrade that uses packet bursting to increase 802.11g performance in both mixed mode (11b/g) and pure 11g environments. Nitro will be supported by all of Intersil's 802.11g chips, including the first generation of the GT and the dual-mode PRISM Duette.

Regarding the Nitro speed burst, Joe Warren, senior manager in the Wireless Networking Product Group at Intersil says Nitro is "a benefit regardless of whether the network is Intersil only or a mix." He says other speed boosts -- a reference to the "Super" speeds recently announced by Intersil's main Wi-Fi chip making rival, Atheros, which will use packet bursting, compression and other tricks to get higher throughput when used between two Atheros products -- will work "perhaps one percent of the time. With us you'll see a performance increase even without a matched pair."

Intersil recently worked with Funk Software of Cambridge, Mass., to enable Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) support on Intersil chips, including the PRISM's GT and Duette. The Funk Odyssey Client -- which Funk just released this week in a "WPA Preview Release" -- provide support for WPA and 802.1X for authentication and encryption key distribution. The chips can use Odyssey as a "complete client solution" says Warren, which covers WPA and 802.1X support to all Microsoft Windows operating systems back to Windows 98. (Microsoft recently built WPA support into Windows XP.)

In fact, Warren points out that Funk's client, in its role with the Intersil chips, is part of the test bed used by the Wi-Fi Alliance to check WPA interoperability.

However, Intersil is a going to be embedding 802.1X support directly into its SingleSource driver software by licensing the AEGIS API (application programming interface) from Meetinghouse Data Communications of Portsmouth, N.H. The AEGIS API will also be embedded in reference designs for 802.11b/g and 11a/b/g products from Intersil's main Wi-Fi chip making rival, Atheros.

The AEGIS API includes not only 802.1X and WPA support, but also Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) -- Cisco's program for making sure client products will automatically work with all Cisco infrastructure equipment.

The new PRISM GT chips should be in products on store shelves by the end of June.

802.11 Planet Conference Are you wondering if WPA is the Wi-Fi security Panacea? We wondered that, too. Join us at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, June 25 - 27, 2003 at the World Trade Center Boston in Boston, MA. To answer the question, we have a panel asking Does WPA Close The Wi-Fi Security Gap? that features speakers that would known -- including the president of Meetinghouse Data.



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