Researchers at Intel have figured out how to integrate all the elements needed to connect to wireless local area networks into a compact package.
Many companies have already built Wi-Fi chips that support the 802.11a/b/g standards, but those products require several other chips to be built on to the motherboard before they can connect to wireless networks.
Intel has now integrated components such as power amplifiers onto a single piece of silicon. It has also built connections from the amplifiers to external radio antennas on a single transceiver package - connections that used to be made with multiple pieces of silicon located outside the package. A transceiver is a chip that can both transmit and receive signals.
The device currently supports 802.11a, b and g, but it should have enough bandwidth to also support the forthcoming 802.11n standard. Intel believes the integrated design will help customers to build cheaper and more power-efficient devices.
In order to build this package, Intel researchers had to solve several problems presented by an integrated design. For example, they had to figure out how to keep the power amplifier from interfering with the radio signal.
By eliminating as many discrete chips as possible, Intel was able to reduce the power consumption of the package and lower the cost of building wireless networking technology into a notebook, mobile phone or PDA.
Intel is probably at least two years away from selling the chips.