Samsung Puts MIMO Wi-Fi in Laptop

By Eric Griffith

June 01, 2005

Notebook Wi-Fi may be the norm, but Samsung is the first to build in the technology that will power the future 802.11n specification.

A notebook with Wi-Fi is about as common as crabgrass and dandelions in the summertime these days. Samsung's X20 and X25 models, however, are the first of a new era of products to support multiple in, multiple out (MIMO) technology, which is destined to be the basis for the future 802.11n standard.

The Wi-Fi chips inside will be the True MIMO brand from Airgo Networks, the company which trumpets its development of MIMO technology years ago (and naturally looks askance at other companies like Video54 and Atheros that also use the term MIMO).

Airgo CEO Greg Raleigh says that Samsung did tests through the Tolly Group which come to the conclusion that True MIMO "enhances the laptop [WLAN] performance dramatically, even with a standard access point or router," better than chips from industry leaders like Intel or Broadcom. The Tolly report says there is "5x the throughput and 10x the coverage," even with Airgo chips only on one side of the link.

And, of course, it outdoes every other chip by a wider margin when connected to a router that is also using a True MIMO chip.

The second generation True MIMO chips in the Samsung computers use smart antenna technology to get a performance boost with standard APs. Raleigh says that such antenna systems are what other vendors call MIMO. He says the term should only be used for spatial multiplexing, when multiple data signals travel on the same channel at the same time.

The Tolly Group testing also indicates that Airgo chips have greater battery efficiency than Intel's Centrino. Raleigh says this is because, with the faster transmission speed, the card can be in a idle state for a higher percentage of the time.

"Centrino is the choice for laptop makers," says Raleigh, "[Intel] spends a lot of money marketing this, and they have subsidy programs [for OEMs]. But if the performance is ten times better with True MIMO, that outweights any subsidies."

Airgo developed a miniPCI card with the chip for Samsung to use, opening the door for other laptop OEMs to buy into using True MIMO.

The Samsung X20 and X25 with True MIMO will support connections to the existing 802.11 networks types (a/b/g). They will sport Intel Pentium M Processors and, according to the Samsung Web site, some models will be available with Centrino.

The deal with Samsung is obviously Airgo's first foray into laptops; its strongest showing so far has been in consumer products from companies like Belkin and Linksys. The company is slowly expanding into consumer electronics and enterprise-class products, and has also landed some hotspot provider customers which it has not yet announced.

What's Up with 11n?

Airgo is affiliated with the World Wide Spectrum Efficiency (WWiSE) consortium of companies pushing for the 802.11n standard within the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). The group received new life last month when a vote within the 802.11n Task Group failed to give a "super majority" of 75 percent to the leading proposal from TGn Sync, which is backed by companies like Intel and Atheros. That put all previous proposals back on the table, and is likely to lead to some outside meetings between the two groups to work toward a compromise.

Raleigh says that eliminating the "controversial elements" of the TGn Sync proposals—such as such as having a 40MHz mandatory channel width (WWiSE uses 20Mhz, with 40 as an option)—should allow compromise to come quickly. "Our interest is getting a standard through, not a PR battle," he says.

"What matters is when the Wi-Fi Alliance certifies 11n for compatibility," says Raleigh, which is not likely to happen before the spring of 2007, if then. He says consumers shouldn't have to wait for two years, which is why Airgo is pushing True MIMO now, even if it won't necessarily be compatible with the final 802.11n specification.

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