Intel researchers have put all you need to connect to wireless LANs on a single piece of silicon.
Many companies already have Wi-Fi chips that support the 802.11a, b and g, but they still require other chips built onto the motherboard to connect to wireless networks.
Intel has integrated components such as power amplifiers onto a single piece of silicon and built connections from the amplifiers to external radio antennas on a single transceiver package - something that previosuly required multiple pieces of silicon.
The device supports 802.11a/b/g, but should have enough bandwidth to support the forthcoming 802.11n standard, said a company spokesman. The integrated design will help customers build cheaper and more power efficient devices, he said.
Intel researchers have solve several problems presented by an integrated design, most significantly, stopping the power amplifier interfering with the radio signal. By eliminating as many discrete chips as possible, Intel has reduced power consumption and lowered the cost.
The current design is only a prototype, and additional testing and validation is needed before Intel will start producing the chip in large volumes. The chips will also require government approval before being sold, so Intel is at least two years away from selling them.
Intel's ultimate goal is to build a communications chip that can connect to any type of network, be it a Wi-Fi LAN, a wide-area WiMax network, or personal-area networks like Bluetooth or UWB (ultrawideband).
By 2007, the company expects to build an integrated chip with separate radios for the various networks, and hopes to eventually build chips with "cognitive" or software-defined radios that can connect to multiple types of networks on their own.
Intel will showcase the prototype at the 2005 VLSI Symposium, an annual conference highlighting advances in semi-conductor research.