continued its “Unwired” mantra by announcing an
upcoming Centrino chipset that supports three major Wi-Fi connectivity
standards: 802.11b, 802.11g and now 802.11a. The so-called “tri-band” solution promises high-speed bandwidth, less
interference, and quicker connections.
The company said the PRO/Wireless 2915ABG
Network Connection hardware is comprised of a Pentium M chip, an Intel 855 chipset, and
support for the networking technology. It should start appearing in notebooks beginning in
September, carrying a bulk price tag of $27 in amounts of 1,000. The mini-PCI adapter can also
be used with existing Intel Pentium M systems, such as the original Bulverde
processor and the PRO/Wireless 2200b/g card, so upgrading
doesn’t require a completely new laptop.
In addition to the hardware, Intel is also including its
PROSet/Wireless software. The update activates the 802.11i
(security) and 802.11e (Quality of Service) already found in Intel’s
silicon. The technology currently supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
The software also includes detection technology developed by Intel and
Linksys division. The technology
lets customers with the new PROSet/Wireless software locate an
unconfigured Linksys access point, then guides them through a short setup
“This is about making wireless computing as manageable and secure as
wired computing,” Jim Johnson, vice president of Intel’s communications
group, said during a webcast.
While analysts like Bob Wheeler of market research firm Linley Group
said Intel’s announcement is hardly earth-shattering, it is significant for
corporations looking to deploy wireless networks.
“The primary benefits of .11a networks are that you get to move to 5 gigahertz,
which is no faster than a .11g network, but there are a lot more channels
available, so you can get more of them operating simultaneously,” Wheeler
told internetnews.com. “The other benefit is that it does not
interfere with wireless phones or microwaves. This is more beneficial for
the home user, but I think for a large corporation, .11a will be a
requirement going forward. Cisco’s recent quarter showed that wireless
networking is picking up at this time, and Linksys’ ABG support supports
As for .11a products, Intel has been lagging behind rivals Atheros
, which is working on its third generation of .11a hardware; and
, which has been selling .11a products for
nearly a year.
Linley Group’s Wheeler also points out that while Intel’s home-grown
solution could run consumers about $10 more than an .11a solution from
Broadcom or Atheros, corporations are more inclined to pay an extra few
dollars for the .11a capabilities up front as a way of future-proofing.
“We saw this with Gigabit Ethernet,” Wheeler said. “Nobody really needs
it right now, but they might need it someday, and so they buy it up front when
making desktop purchases. And when it comes to a corporate contract, the
large OEMs like Dell will absorb some of the cost, so the price difference
passed on to the client is barely noticeable. If you or I order Intel’s
hardware off the Web, we would see that price difference.”
Still, Intel is counting on its Centrino branding campaign to score some points. According to research from analyst firm Pyramid Research (contracted by Intel), there could be as many as 700 million Wi-Fi users by 2007.
“It is all a branding issue,” Wheeler said. “And there is a contingent of people really
buying into Centrino.”