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Centrino takes to the skies

Intel extends certification to Boeing aircraft

Intel has added Boeing's Connexion in-flight wireless internet service to the list of providers certified under its wireless verification program, the companies announced yesterday.

The Wireless Verification Program is an Intel initiative to ensure that publicly accessible wireless internet services, or hot spots, will work with the wireless chips sold as part of its Centrino notebook technology package, said Keith Kressin, director of marketing for Intel's Mobile Platforms Group. This includes making sure that commercial access points are using up-to-date wireless standards and proper configurations, he said.

Connexion allows customers on international airlines such as Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines to access the internet using notebook PCs with Wi-Fi chips. American Airlines and Korean Air will soon launch the service on selected flights, Intel and Boeing said in a press release on Monday.

Intel began its wireless verification program in 2003 prior to the launch of Centrino, which consists of the Pentium M processor, a mobile chipset, and an 802.11 wireless chip. Although wireless LANs had existed for a few years prior to the launch, the general public was unfamiliar with the technology and wary about using it to connect to their corporate networks, according to Kressin.

In order for the concept to take off, Intel believed that notebook users would need to feel confident that their notebooks would work reliably with hot spots, Kressin said. For example, not all access points are configured by default to recognize some power-saving technology within Intel's wireless chips. If a user lets a notebook enter a sleep state while connected to one of these access points, he or she might be forced to reboot the PC to get back online, which would be unacceptable for users working on a complicated presentation or a critical email, he said.

Therefore, in hopes of increasing sales of wireless-equipped notebooks, Intel works with access point vendors and hot spot providers to ensure that users will have a reliable experience every time they connect to a wireless network, Kressin said. The company has so far certified about 70,000 hot spots in different parts of the world, he added.

The chip giant certifies hot spots as each new generation of 802.11 technology comes out, and it is now starting to ensure hot spot providers are correcting implementing 802.11i, a new specification in the 802.11 family that improves the security of the network.


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