TI Prepares for Wi-Fi Phones

By Eric Griffith

March 22, 2004

The company's new 802.11g chipset features a new radio in a package targeting future WLAN handset devices.

Dallas based Texas Instruments (TI) took the wraps off a new 802.11g/b and dual-band 802.11a/g/b solution today that it hopes will make a splash in the up-and-coming market of phone handsets and PDAs using Wi-Fi.

The two chip solution they're announcing today -- specifically combining TI's NETW1250 single-chip MAC/baseband processor with new TNETW3422M 2.4GHz radio and power amplifier chip -- takes up only 8 by 8 millimeters on a circuit board. Lower power use in Wi-Fi components is something TI has been working on for a while, and they claim this chip uses 50% less than others, even when active. TI also says the size means a lower cost bill of materials for manufacturers using the chip.

According to Bob Wheeler, the senior analyst tracking the wireless chipset market for The Linley Group, the radio is what's new and interesting in this third generation chip set. He calls it the company's "first competitive radio design." This is one of TI's first major uses of a radio since they bought former partner Radia last year. Until that point, TI's 802.11 solutions used third party radios.

The other unique aspect is that TI's solution supports 802.11g. The other chip companies with small chipsets -- single chip solutions with MAC, baseband and radio all in one -- either only support 802.11b (in the case of Broadcom ) or are 11g but don't necessarily target handsets (Atheros ), according to Wheeler.

"For voice, you don't need much bandwidth," he says. "It depends on the Quality of Service in the access point and what kind of environment you're in. But 11b has plenty of throughput for voice."

However, he notes, that the use of higher-power 11g isn't always a detriment, as you can transfer information faster so the hardware can be put to sleep more often.

TI's chipset has a Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) interface -- the type found in many PDAs. These same chips could be used with a PCI interface found in larger products such as access points, and Wheeler expects the chip will appear in such as well over time.

The TNETW1250 chips is set to work with other wireless solutions from TI, from cellular (GSM, GPRS, CDMA, and EDGE)) to Bluetooth, allowing for convergence of multiple wireless connections on the handset.

Broadcom told Wheeler it is in production with its single chip solution. "They have a time to market advantage," he says. Meanwhile, TI and Atheros are currently sampling to select customers.



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