Synad's Paradigm Shifting WLAN Chipset

By Matthew Peretz

December 03, 2001

It's a smart WLAN chipset designed to connect to the best Access Point available in both 802.11b and 802.11a networks - without involving the user or losing a signal

Synad Technologies, a fabless chip start-up based in Reading, UK, today unveiled its Mercury5G dual-mode, 802.11a & 802.11b, chipset for WLANs. Synad's location in Reading, UK, is analogous to it being based in San Diego, CA, according to CEO Mike Baker. The company is poised to take advantage of the major technology presence of companies like Motorola, Nokia, and Lucent in this London-area tech center.

Synad's initial and current focus, according to Baker, has been to provide the type of seamless roaming and interoperability characteristics that end-users have come to expect from mobile architectures, including future WLANs. Baker believes that there has been, and will continue to be, unnecessary confusion arising from too many seemingly incompatible wireless standards. Synad Technologies, he explained to 802.11-Planet, started in the dual-mode design process from the outset of the company 18 months ago.

Synad's new Mercury5G dual-mode chipset will enable manufacturers to build dual standard WLANs. Key to the optimum user-experience Baker hopes to deliver to end-users is the chip architecture's inclusion of what Synad calls its AgileRF technology. Because the new chipset is built to operate on both 2.4 and 5 GHz WLANs, the AgileRF technology figures out which nearby signal is best to connect to and does so - all the while observing the other Access Points around it so that it knows what to switch to should interference cause significant signal loss -- or when the user actually moves around the space. While one might imagine that a desktop user connected to a fixed AP would have an inviolable connection - Baker quickly pointed out how frustrated that user could become when somebody moving a desk around the office causes a complete connection loss. AgileRF also eliminates that possiblity.

Baker explained to 802.11-Planet that his company's decision to build a dual mode chipset was based on a number of considerations regarding the two WLAN technologies. Synad, he explained, strongly supports the adoption and use of both 802.11a and 802.11b - based on the idea that the two are complementary and not competing in real-world use. He explained, for example, that while 802.11a might be better suited for use in buildings, 802.11b has a definite strength in the more public hotspots where longer signal propogation is considered beneficial and where the key usage of the technology is Internet browsing. Users, don't necessarily care or want to know which network they are using and why - they just want the best uninterrupted connection.

The Mercury5G chipset with AgileRF technology also solves another dilemma which as been plaguing IT managers recently - that is, which standard to invest in. While is may not sound crucial, Baker explained that many an IT manager has lost his/her job based on investing a company's money in what turned out to be the doghouse technolgy. Because the Mercury5G chipset is dual-mode, the necessity of making such a choice is effectively eliminated, leading not only to job security for those poor IT managers but lower Total Cost of Ownership for corporations.

The Mercury5G specificiation is based on an integrated, two-chip solution, comprising a direct conversion (Zero IF) dual band radio chip and a modem/MAC chip. It uses integrated system memory and requires no external flash memory components - as well as hardware accelerators and a RISC CPU. It supports security features based on WEP and AES encryption along with support for authentication protocols. High quality multi-media streaming is enabled with QoS protocols and a DMA engine that delivers packet authentication. Spectrum management functions include Transmit Power Control (TPC) and Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS).

Synad Techologies stated that it expects to begin sampling the chipset to customers in the second quarter of 2002 - ahead of the rollout plans of some of its closest competitors. Pricing should be $32 per 10,000 units. Synad also stated that the Mercury5G will be supported by a developer's kit, including reference designs for configurations like miniPCI, CardBus PC Card, software drivers, API's and support tools.

Detailed information about the Mercury5G chipset architecture can be found at the Synad Web site.

Matthew Peretz is Managing Editor of

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