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Cable-modem chipmaker to add Wi-Fi

Conexant is adding 802.11g-based wireless networking capabilities to its cable-modem chips to encourage Web surfers to beam digital content from PCs to other devices in the home.

Chipmaker Conexant is adding 802.11g-based wireless networking capabilities to its cable-modem chips, as the ability to transmit digital media continues to improve.

The Newport Beach, Calif.-based company announced Monday a new 802.11g-based chip, the CX85510, which can be combined with its broadband chipsets for an integrated Wi-Fi-broadband chip product. The company already has an 802.11b-based chip for cable chipsets available and expects to have a combination 802.11b-802.11g-802.11a chip available in early 2004.

Conexant's chips are used in ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line) and cable modems, designed to provide consumers with broadband access to the Internet.

"One of the most recognizable benefits (of Wi-Fi) is the distribution of digital media," said Keith Waryas, analyst with research company IDC.

A cable modem with high-speed wireless networking would help to encourage the use of digital media, Waryas said. The 802.11g standard allows for a maximum throughput rate of 54 megabits per second, while the 802.11b standard supports 11mbps.

Many individuals already associate Wi-Fi with broadband connections, mainly because sharing broadband access is one of the most popular uses for Wi-Fi networks, said Peter Kempf, vice president of Wireless Data and Networking Components for Conexant. The company is hoping that the new chip will encourage digital media use in the home, Kempf said.

"What will be next in driving the need for Wi-Fi into the home?" Kempf said. "The need to share media from whatever is storing it, like a PC, to a display, like a television."

In related news, manufacturers took another step in making it easier for consumers to use and share digital media.

Intel, Sony and a host of Japanese electronics manufacturers on Tuesday will propose a standard for allowing consumers to freely swap digital media downloaded from the Internet among all the devices in their homes. The specification, embodied in home networks, would permit consumers to play downloaded music or movies on any PC or digital device in the home. However, the downloaded material couldn't be transmitted outside the home or copied.