By Vikki Lipset
September 17, 2003
Texas Instruments on Wednesday unveiled a new low-power Wi-Fi chip for mobile phones and PDAs.
The new chip, dubbed the TNETW1230, supports the 802.11a, b and g wireless networking standards. TI said several new mobile phones are already using the chip, including Motorola’s Wi-Fi/cellular handset, which is expected to appear in the second half of 2004.
Handheld makers have been slow to adopt Wi-Fi because of the battery drain it causes, but some major chipmakers, including Broadcom and Philips, are starting to turn out smaller, low-power Wi-Fi chips designed for mobile devices.
TI’s new chip builds on the TNETW1100B processor that the company introduced last year, using the same Extra Low Power (ELP) technology to save power, said Matt Kurtz, WLAN marketing manager at TI. He added that the higher throughput of 802.11a and 802.11g (54Mbps compared with 11Mbps for 802.11b) actually helps amplify the effects of ELP, optimizing the chip for standby power consumption.
“Parts of a/g play well into power savings and battery life for mobile devices,” he said. “They are able to get on and off the air faster, so [the device] spends more time in standby modes and less time in active modes.” According to TI, the chip uses less than 1 milli Ampere (mA) in standby mode.
He also noted that since there is far less overhead with 11a/g than there is with 11b. “You’re getting more for less,” he said.
Like its predecessor, the new TNETW1230 is a 12mm-by-12mm single-chip media access controller (MAC) and baseband processor. It is compatible with other TI chipsets, including its OMAP processors for cell phones and its Bluetooth-802.11 coexistance package.
Manufacturers using the old 802.11b chip can migrate to the 802.11g designs using TI’s embedded station developers kit, which includes programming and hardware design tools, as well as sample reference designs.
The TNETW1230 is currently sampling, with production expected to begin next month. Volume pricing will be under $20, according to Kurtz.