Wireless LAN access points using new software from Texas Instruments will be able to support 802.11g and 802.11a connections simultaneously using a single chip set, the company says.

TI is working with access-point vendors to have products available with its new wOne software around the start of the second quarter, said Lucy Huang, TI product manager for WLAN products. Several existing WLAN access points can create both 802.11a and 802.11g networks, but products with wOne will be the first to accomplish that using a single WLAN chip set, she added.

The most widely used WLAN technology based on the 802.11 standard is 802.11b, but 802.11a and 802.11g networks offer more bandwidth. Products that run on 802.11g are compatible with 802.11b products, because the two networks use the 2.4 GHz frequency band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Products based on 802.11a offer networking speeds comparable to 802.11g products but use the 5 GHz frequency band, which is less prone to interference with other home wireless devices that use the 2.4 GHz band.

Wireless users have been slow to embrace the 802.11a standard because of its incompatibility with older 802.11b products, as well as its shorter range and higher price tag compared with 802.11b and 802.11g products. Analysts believe that 802.11a will eventually find a niche as a standard for home media wireless networking, because the range problem isn't as much of an issue in a living room and the limited interference will allow for smoother delivery of movies and audio.

Some WLAN routers from major manufacturers, including D-Link and Netgear, offer simultaneous connections using at least two 802.11a/b/g dual-band chip sets, Huang said. Current dual-band chip sets can create only one type of network, either an 802.11a network or a 802.11b/g network, at a given time. This need for dual chip sets adds cost to the manufacturing process, which is passed on to the customer, she said.

TI's software will allow consumers, telecommuters, and small businesses to pay only slightly more for a WLAN router that can simultaneously support all three 802.11 standards as compared to an 802.11b/g router, Huang said. Right now, enterprises are the dominant market for dual-band WLAN products because consumers and small businesses aren't willing to pay $250 or more for a WLAN router with 802.11a technology that they won't use very often, she said.

Consumers who are interested in using 802.11a technology but don't want to spend that much money will be able to purchase routers using TI's software and a single 802.11b/g/a chip set for about $10 to $20 more than a typical 802.11b/g router, Huang said. Most 802.11b/g products cost between $99 and $129, she added.

Performance will suffer when a WLAN router with TI's software is operated in simultaneous mode, Huang said. Users can expect around 20 Mbit/s of bandwidth when connected to either an 802.11a or 802.11g network, she says. But when the router is supporting clients on both networking technologies simultaneously, the bandwidth drops to around 10 Mbit/s per client, she says.

However, this is still plenty of bandwidth for most consumer and small-business wireless users, who connect to the Internet through only 1 Mbit/s or 2 Mbit/s broadband connection, Huang said.