Broadcom speeds up 802.11g networks

A new chipset accelerates wireless LAN networks to 125Mbps, says Broadcom, paving the way for high-bandwidth wireless media networks

Broadcom has introduced a Wi-Fi chipset that it says can speed the performance of 802.11g networks to 125 megabits per second (Mbps), potentially creating new opportunities for routing high-bandwidth media across wireless networks.

The company's 54g MaxPerformance chipset, with AfterBurner technology, is designed to be compatible with existing 802.11g networks, with an added "performance" mode that offers the equivalent to a signal rate of 125Mbps, Broadcom said on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. That is faster than other wireless-LAN acceleration technologies, such as Atheros' 108Mbps Super G.

"Broadcom's latest offering provides both 802.11g compliance and a performance mode that can significantly increase throughput in an 802.11g-capable network," said Broadcom senior director Jeff Abramowitz in a statement.

The first product using AfterBurner, Buffalo Technology's AirStation 125Mbps Wireless Cable / DSL Router-g (WHR2-G54), also made its debut on Thursday. The four-port broadband router combines WLAN acceleration with a system called AirStation One-Touch Secure System (AOSS), designed to simplify wireless security configuration.

Broadcom said that the performance gain in AfterBurner is due to closing down the timing between data packets. The chipset uses one 802.11g channel for transmission, unlike Super G, which multiplexes traffic over two channels -- an approach that Broadcom claims causes interference with other devices using the 2.4GHz radio band, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. "Unlike competing high-speed solutions, the WHR2-G54 does not cause harm to nearby 2.4GHz wireless systems," said Buffalo in a statement.

Broadcom's chipset is currently being demonstrated at CES. The WHR2-G54 will be on the market in the US next month for $199 (£108). Broadcom supplies WLAN chips to networking equipment makers such as Belkin, Linksys, Microsoft and Motorola, and its chips are used in notebook PCs from Apple, Dell, eMachines, Fujitsu, Gateway and HP.

The company has shipped more than 11 million of its 54g chipsets, and controls 78 percent of the US retail market for 802.11g products, according to figures from the NPD Group released on Thursday.

Multimedia networks
AfterBurner underscores a recent trend among chipmakers to create ever-faster networks for transmitting larger forms of digital media. The goal is to create wireless networks that can support forms of digital media that require greater bandwidth, such as video.

For example, on Tuesday NetGear announced the Super G-based WGT634U Super Wireless Media Router, which connects to an external hard drive over a USB 2.0 connection and allows client devices on the router's Wi-Fi network to access the drive's contents.

Earlier this week, chipmaker GlobespanVirata announced the Prism Nitro XM Xtreme Multimedia, an upgrade for its 802.11g, 802.11a and combination 802.11g/802.11a chips that boosts wireless transfer rates for compressed data to up to 140Mbps, though actual throughput rates will be about 70Mbps.

Globespan Virata's system only speeds up the transfer of compressed data such as audio and video, while content such as encrypted data are transferred at lower speeds.

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.

CNET's Richard Shim contributed to this report.