Intel and Cisco have announced proprietary extensions that will give next year's Centrino laptops better Wi-Fi security and roaming, and better support for voice on IP (VOIP), when used with Cisco access points.
"This technology is for Cisco access points and Centrino laptops based on [Intel's forthcoming] Napa processor," said Alan Cohen director of product management, wireless, for Cisco. "Our goal is to accelerate the adoption of secure wireless networking."
The Business Class Wireless Suite was demonstrated at a keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco by Intel vice president Sean Maloney, who also announced a project with Matsushita for longer Centrino battery life.
The Intel-Cisco partnership will add to existing CCX (Cisco Compatible Extensions) technology, to make access points and clients co-operate better, said Cohen. It will simplify installation of Wi-Fi and improve both security and ease of use for the enterprise and consumers. .
To improve the quality of voice calls over Wi-Fi, voice calls will get priority over data traffic, said Cisco chief development officer Charles Giancarlo. There will be components of the technology both on notebook PCs and on Cisco routers, he said: "VOIP over Wi-Fi turns out to be really, really tricky," he said.
"What we've done is to go a step beyond the 802.11f standards, to enhance performance and call clarity," explained Cohen. The technology uses Intel's wideband codec, to make Wi-Fi voice closer to a cellphone: "When clients and APs co-operate, it's a good foundation for tightening the loop," said Cohen.
The other Wi-Fi enhancement the companies plan to release in 2006 will change the way clients automatically select a nearby access point when the user starts hooking up to a business wireless LAN. Rather than connecting to the access point with the strongest signal, clients will choose the access point with the most available bandwidth at the moment, Giancarlo said.
In some locations, this would be a more logical way to connect with Wi-Fi, as long as it logged the client on to a network with a reasonably strong signal, said Greg Collins, an analyst at Dell'Oro Group.
"If you have a high density of access points and high densities of users, then it might make sense to have that option," Collins said.
Also Tuesday, the companies announced cooperation on network security. Intel will join Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) program, in which Cisco routers can evaluate security information about a client before allowing it to connect to a network or access particular resources. The idea is to prevent new entrants to a network from introducing vulnerabilities. Among other things, under NAC a router could check whether the antivirus definitions on a visitor's notebook PC are up to date.
Meanwhile, Cisco will join Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) program, which is intended to make IT systems more manageable, the companies said. NAC and AMT will be compatible beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, said a joint release, allowing enterprises to better defend against security threats.
Also in the keynote, which focused on mobility and communications, Maloney demonstrated Intel's next-generation processor for handhelds, code-named Monahans. It will follow the current Bulverde handheld platform. A Monahans chip was running on a demonstration platform showing full-motion video. The chip was running at more than 1.2GHz, though Intel does not yet know whether it will manufacture it for speeds over 1GHz, Maloney said.
In a partnership with Matsushita, better known for its Panasonic brand name, Intel will develop technology to increase notebook battery life by as much as 30 percent, Maloney said. It will move Intel toward the goal of achieving 8 hours of battery life by 2008, he said.