Low power 802.11n sampling from Redpine

Redpine Signals has announced that it is sampling a low power 802.11n chip suitable for cell phones. A reference design was certified in January, making it the first handset-grade 802.11n chip to market.

One of the major benefits of 802.11n is MIMO, so you might think that since a handset is unlikely to have multiple antennas, 802.11n isn’t going to help much. Actually, it will make an enormous difference in reliability and range, and consequently throughput. I wrote before about the array of improvements incorporated in 11n. The one of greatest interest in this context is Space-Time Block Coding (STBC).

The WFA website shows 90 Access Points (APs) certified for 802.11n, but STBC is optional in 11n, not mandatory, and not all the AP chipsets support it. The main makers of AP chipsets are Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell. None of these have mentioned STBC until recently. But now Broadcom says it is in the BCM4322, which is set to ship in the first quarter of 2008, and Marvell says it is in the TopDog 11n-450, which is scheduled to ship in 2Q 2008.

This Techworld article has a good discussion of the current state of enterprise 11n access points, noting that multi-radio APs are currently too power-hungry to be powered over Ethernet (PoE).

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