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Chipmaker GlobespanVirata speeds Wi-Fi

The company develops an upgrade for 802.11g and 802.11a chips, underscoring a recent trend among chipmakers to create ever-faster networks for transmitting larger forms of digital media.

Chipmaker GlobespanVirata announced that it has developed an upgrade for wireless networking processors that dramatically increases transfer rates of compressed data.

The Red Bank, N.J.-based company said Tuesday that Prism Nitro XM Xtreme Multimedia, an upgrade for its 802.11g, 802.11a and combination 802.11g/802.11a chips, boosts wireless transfer rates of compressed data to up to 140mbps (megabits per second). Actual throughput rates will be about 70mbps, according to a company representative. The upgrade is available to manufacturers such as NetGear, D-Link and SMC that use GlobespanVirata chips.

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The announcement underscores a recent trend among chipmakers to create ever-faster networks for transmitting larger forms of digital media. Atheros and start-up Airgo Networks have also developed chips that allow for higher throughputs. The goal is to create wireless networks that can support forms of digital media that require greater bandwidth, such as video.

"This will truly enable advanced home-networking applications such as multichannel CD-quality audio and DVD-quality video to operate at maximum efficiency without performance or range limitations," Larry Ciaccia, vice president of GlobespanVirata's wireless product group, said in a statement.

The wireless networking industry has been working on networks with higher throughputs, and industry groups such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are getting the ball rolling on the next Wi-Fi standard, 802.11n, which is expected to offer an actual transfer rate of more than 100mbps. That standard is not expected to be finished for several years.

The GlobespanVirata upgrade still allows the networks to be compatible with standard 802.11g and 802.11a clients and does not cause interference with other networks, according to Jim Zyren, director of marketing at GlobespanVirata. Zyren added that while compressed audio and video will be transferred wirelessly at higher rates, content such as encrypted data will not.

GlobespanVirata bought Intersil's wireless networking group in the third quarter of last year for $365 million in cash and stock. Intersil is focusing its business on supplying high-performance analog components, according to the company.

In related news, Texas Instruments announced on Monday a software upgrade that essentially allows a router to operate simultaneously in 802.11g and 802.11a mode using a single chipset. The upgrade is currently available to manufacturers and should be in products early in the second quarter, according to a TI representative.