Intel chipset to make PC into wireless access point

Desktop PCs with Intel Corp.’s Grantsdale chipset, scheduled for release in the first half of 2004, will allow users to run wireless networks from their PCs, the company said Monday.

Intel president and chief operating officer Paul Otellini first discussed the chipset last month at Intel’s fall analyst meeting in New York. Grantsdale will incorporate support for double data rate (DDR2) memory and the peripheral component interconnect (PCI) Express standard, in addition to access point capability, said George Alfs, an Intel spokesperson.

When the chipset is released, it will be targeted primarily at the Prescott processor, Alfs said. Prescott is the 90 nanometer version of the Pentium 4, and it is expected to launch this month in limited volumes with shipments increasing through the first part of 2004.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company’s strategy for desktop processors and chipsets is to design products that will enable the digital home. Intel envisions the PC as the centre of a digital network that wirelessly transmits digital media around the home to digital televisions or other consumer electronics devices.

Software on the Grantsdale chipset will enable wireless access capability, but users will still need a wireless card for their PCs in order to use the technology.

Intel has added extra capabilities to its chipsets such as basic integrated graphics and audio over the last several years, said Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld in Reston, Va. The extra features help drive up the value of the chipsets, which coordinate interactions between the processor, the memory and the I/O functions on a motherboard, he said.

Not everyone will want an integrated wireless access point on their desktop, just like some users choose to add graphics cards from companies like ATI Technologies Inc. or Nvidia Corp. to their PCs, but certain users will be satisfied with the integrated product, Baker said.

Stand-alone wireless access points from manufacturers such as Linksys Group Inc. will likely offer more features, performance and flexibility than Grantsdale. Intel has not said what wireless standard will be incorporated into Grantsdale, Alfs said.

Intel’s own wireless chips based on the various 802.11 standards have hit a few bumps on the road to introduction. The company launched an 802.11b chip along with its Pentium M processor as part of the Centrino package back in March, but had hoped to have a chip for both 802.11b and 802.11a networks at that launch. That combination 802.11a/802.11b chip launched in October after delays attributed to the need for additional testing and validation.

The company hopes to ship a chip for 802.11b and 802.11g networks to PC manufacturers by the end of the year, and has said it will ship a trimode chip next year. Networks based on the 802.11b and 802.11g standards are compatible, but transfer speeds over 802.11g networks are much faster. The 802.11a standard is also much faster than the commonly used 802.11b standard and is less prone to interference, but has a more limited range than the 802.11b or 802.11g standards.

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