Wireless card brings Bluetooth and Wi-Fi together

Wireless standards 802.11b and Bluetooth can interfere with each other, but a new card from Intersil and Silicon Wave claims to iron out their differences

In defiance of doomsayers who predicted that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi could never coexist, chip companies Intersil and Silicon Wave have announced one board that does both wireless standards at the same time. Wi-Fi -- also known as 802.11b -- is a wireless network that replaces wired Ethernet connections, while Bluetooth is designed to replace single cables such as serial connections and modem leads. They both use the same frequencies and can thus interfere with each other.

Billed as the world's first mini-PCI card reference design for dual-mode simultaneous operation, the new card lets Bluetooth and 802.11b share the same printed circuit board, host interface and antennas.

Although they have separate radio circuits, the two protocols cooperate at the media access control level, in effect scheduling their packet transmissions to interleave their use of the shared radio band. This process, called Blue802 by Intersil and Silicon Wave, is invisible to the operating system, application software and user.

Drivers are available for desktop Windows operating systems: the system uses Intersil's existing Prism 3 WLAN chip set and is thus a good candidate for Linux driver activity.

Designed to work in notebooks and laptops with Type IIIa mini-PCI slots, the reference card will let designers produce adaptors for under £50. Intersil and Silicon Wave are not the only companies working on Bluetooth and WiFi co-operative products: Mobilian has previously demonstrated its TrueRadio system, which also uses MAC-layer scheduling to obviate interference, while laptop makers HP and Sony have shipped computers with both technologies fitted. As Bluetooth is still relatively new on the scene, no comparison data for how well the different solutions work is yet available.

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