While World Waits for 802.11n, Broadcom Advances 11g

Last May’s failure of the IEEE to ratify a high-bandwidth wireless networking standard for 802.11n left the networking market fractured. While some companies are plowing ahead with production of “pre-N” equipment, despite disillusionment among buyers in all market segments, others are trying to eek out all the bandwidth they can get from the latest standard there is, 802.11g.

To that end, Broadcom may have found pay dirt: This morning, the company announced it has miniaturized its 11g chipsets for use in very, very small networking devices. The goal is to empower not only handsets but smaller components still, with the capability to receive 54 Mbps – which is as high as wireless networking is going to get prior to 11n (135 Mbps) ever being adopted.

By comparison, Bluetooth 2.0 is lucky to break 2.0 Mbps.

Broadcom calls this technology “54g,” and is pushing it as though it were a standard unto itself. Some of Broadcom’s customers are supporting the “standard” as partners, including Cisco division Linksys, and former 3Com brand USRobotics. One of its key features is a kind of sustained burst mode called “125 High Speed Mode,” which can apparently attain maximum throughput of 125 Mbps - close to 11n territory.

If you can call it a “footprint,” Broadcom is aiming for this new 54g chipset to consume only 50 square millimeters of real estate. But what could be Broadcom’s toughest sell will be its “ultra-low power” push. The company is claiming the chipset will consume just 270 mW of power in active mode. (When Intel claims its 11g chipsets consume about 100 mW, it’s referring to idle state.)

Indeed, this could definitely open up avenues for smaller implementations, especially since the ordinary 11g transceiver can consume between 700 and 1300 mW in active state (the latter figure generally at burst mode).

That figure is still out of Bluetooth’s ballpark, however. Since its transceivers can consume under 20 mW of power, you won’t be seeing 54g taking over Bluetooth’s space in the market. What you might see, however, are broadband-equipped mobile phones that can be leveraged by connected mobile PCs, or pocket PCs with high-speed connections to the local network.

Broadcom is actually one of those companies that has already released draft-11n chipsets under the Intensi-Fi brand, although it’s apparently not one to place all its bets on one horse.

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