Alliance formed

Agere Systems Inc. and Infineon Technologies AG announced last month a broad alliance to jointly develop chips for multimode WLAN (wireless LAN) products based on the 802.11a, b and g standards.

“Compatibility between these three 802.11 standards is a must,” said Hubert Christl, vice-president and general manager of local area wireless products at Infineon, headquartered in Munich, Germany. “The multimode system we are developing together with Agere will provide this compatibility fully.”

The companies aim to have a fully functional multimode product in the market by the end of the second quarter of 2003 “at the very latest,” Christl said.

Many of the public WLAN networks in operation today are based on the 802.11b standard, which operates in the 2.4GHz band and offers speeds up to 11Mbps. Using three non-overlapping channels out of the 14 defined by the standard, a network can reach a total capacity of 33Mbps in one coverage area.

But numerous operators are keen to deploy the faster 802.11a standard. The standard, operating in the 5GHZ band, provides speeds up 54Mbps. It uses 12 channels in the U.S., Christl said.

One of the drawbacks of the 802.11a standard, however, is that it is incompatible with its predecessor, 802.11b, meaning that users and services providers of the earlier technology can’t use their WLAN cards and access point equipment with the new system.

The multimode product to be developed by Agere and Infineon aims to bridge this compatibility gap, while opening the door to the 802.11g standard, which offers speeds up to 54M bps in the same frequency band as 802.11b.

Although the 802.11g standard is in the final stage of approval, “we are involved in the standardization process and know exactly what has to be integrated,” Christl said. “Our multimode product will be fully compliant with 802.11g.”

Under the alliance, Allentown, Penn. communications equipment manufacturer Agere will provide its multimode media access controller with software drivers, while Infineon will contribute its advanced dual-band radio technology and wide-band power amplifier chips, the companies said in a joint statement.

The two firms will co-develop the physical layer component for the reference designs, combining intellectual property and experience.

Moreover, Agere and Infineon will cross-license patents and technology that they jointly use.

However, both companies will independently market their WLAN chips and reference designs to manufacturers of communication and computing equipment.

– IDG News Service