TI launches low power Wi-Fi chip


Texas Instruments has announced a new wireless LAN (WLAN) chip which requires up to ten times less power than existing solutions.

TNETW1100B is an integrated 802.11b (Wi-Fi) Medium Access Controller (MAC) and baseband processor (BBP). It uses just 2 milli-watts of power in standby mode, prolonging battery life and making it suitable for use in smaller form factor mobile devices and even embedded applications. TI claims that most Wi-Fi chips spend about 95% of the time in standby mode and that its chip can improve battery life by up to 25% in a PDA, while a laptop will use 75% less power than most existing systems. Most PDA manufacturers, with the exception of some industrial vendors, have refused to integrate current 802.11b chips into their devices because of the negative impact on battery life.

“With the new TNETW1100B, Texas Instruments is the first to enable a vast new class of truly portable and battery-friendly Wi-Fi devices. IEEE 802.11b was not originally developed for highly mobile products as its primary application, so power consumption and size have remained significant obstacles for mobile device manufacturers wanting to offer WLAN connectivity,” said Marc Cetto, general manager of TI’s Wireless Networking Business Unit. “The benefits of WLAN connectivity increase greatly when you don’t have to be plugged-in or carry extra batteries. With TI’s ELP technology drastically reducing overall power consumption, the TNETW1100B is taking WLAN from the proof-of-concept stage to a valuable and realistic feature for many more mobile and embedded products.”

Insight

The power requirements of current integrated 802.11b solutions make them unsuitable for virtually all mobile devices, with the exception of some larger notebooks. TI’s latest chip, combined with continuing advances in battery technology, could mean that we will start to see Wi-Fi integrated into consumer handhelds from companies such as Sony, Palm and HP. There is certainly demand for such devices, especially among enterprise users in the US.

This could also jump-start the market for plug-in SDIO 802.11b cards. While some are already in development, their impact on the host device’s battery life will likely ensure they remain the preserve of enthusiasts and developers only.


Originally published by PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence, the subscription-based analysis and insight platform founded by Marek Pawlowski.
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