Communications chipmaker Conexant Systems announced Tuesday that it is adding Intersil Wi-Fi chips to the semiconductors it builds for high-speed cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) modems.
Such an integrated product will help manufacturers to build a set-top box that creates its own wireless network instead of just connecting to an outside wireless network. Normally Wi-Fi networking chips are located in hardware that hangs on a ceiling or wall and provides access within a 300-foot area.
"(It is) the next step in the evolution of Wi-Fi," said Intersil spokesman Ron Paciello.
Paciello said these new kinds of Wi-Fi modems should start to surface by the end of the year. Using them, customers could, for example, make telephone calls over the Internet via a television, or use one device to send digital TV signals and computer games wirelessly to different computers or TVs, Conexant spokeswoman Gwen Carlson said.
"We recognize that 802.11 is a very important networking technology," she said.
Cahners In-Stat analyst Sam Lucero believes Conexant, which doesn't make its own Wi-Fi chips, is the first chipmaker to disclose that it will be integrating Wi-Fi with its cable and DSL chips. But he expects more modem or set-top box makers to follow with Wi-Fi products of their own.
The relatively simple and easy to install Wi-Fi, also known as 802.11b technology, has been wildly popular over the last year and is now found in about 18 million homes and offices. As its popularity has taken off, Wi-Fi has also begun tointo mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) which can send and receive signals over a Wi-Fi network.