Intel Advances Faster Wireless USB Spec

By David Needle

August 24, 2005

Put your printer anywhere you want it.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel is pushing its wireless USB initiative to faster data transfer rates that enable fewer cables for peripherals like printers, scanners, digital cameras and storage devices.

The chipmaker is planning to announce that it is developing a Wireless Host Controller Interface (WHCI) specification with support from Microsoft, NEC, Philips, Texas Instruments, and other experts in Certified Wireless USB technology.

"You'll start seeing wireless USB products on the market early next year," Jeff Ravencraft, Intel technology strategist, told internetnews.com. Ravencraft is also president and chairman of the USB Implementor's Forum group. "People are getting use to wireless computing and this is another way to get them untethered."

The spec is compatible with the industry working group WiMedia Alliance's ultra-wideband (UWB) common radio platform.

Although some companies offer wireless peripherals like wireless pointing devices and keyboards, the certified Wireless USB standard offers much better data transfer performance of 480 Mbps at 3 meters and 110Mbps at 10 meters. The WHCI specification is designed to provide a standardized method for hardware-software communication, which will speed time-to-market for Certified Wireless USB products and enable the industry to deliver interoperable products in 2006, according to Intel.

Specifically, the WHCI specification will allow a PCI-based host controller to communicate with a host's software driver stack, provided all components are based on the Certified Wireless USB specification.

Intel also announced the opening of a compatibility testing lab where developers can test their products for compliance with the emerging wireless standard.

Intel was an early proponent of USB and its successor the, faster USB 2.0 spec. Ravencraft said you can expect the Wireless USB spec to evolve as well. "We have a cell phone customer who says they are planning a four gigabyte micro-drive and want to have wireless 2 gigabit-per-second transfer rates." That means one potential application would be watching movies on the cell phone.

Over a year ago, Intel and six other tech heavyweights formed an industry association called the Wireless USB Promoter Group. The goal: define a specification to allow high-speed wireless connections between computers and devices such as printers, scanners and digital cameras.

The other founding members of the group are Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Philips Semiconductors, Agere Systems and Samsung Electronics.

The Intel Developers Conference, taking place here this week, is fast-becoming Intel Unplugged.

On the first day of IDF, Intel discussed the growth of WiFi technology and projects related to WiMAX, a more ambitious specification for providing metropolitan and other geographic areas with fixed wireless broadband access.



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