Proxim Corporation to acquire Agere's wireless LAN division, including Orinoco product line: In news that will alter both consumer and enterprise Wi-Fi, Proxim announced this morning that it is buying Agere's Orinoco division along with other wireless networking products sold by the Lucent spinoff company.
Interestingly, Agere will continue to own its Wi-Fi manufacturing lines, which are much closer in spirit to the rest of the firm's offerings. Agere manufactures the components for Apple's AirPort line.
The press release gave a hint about Proxim's plans for 802.11b's migration to 802.11a: The transaction enables the company to immediately realize revenues from the world's largest installed user base of 802.11b infrastructure, which can in turn be upgraded to 802.11a technology over time.
The deal also includes a three-year contract for Agere to supply the components (chips and boards) to Proxim, and a settlement via cross-licensing of outstanding patent lawsuits. This is definitely a boost for both firms, reducing their expenses and fabrication costs, and removing costly litigation from their budgets.
Proxim's reinforced line-up coupled with their reasonable pricing, highly competitive at both the bottom and top end, could force price cutting or encourage mergers between other consumer Wi-Fi vendors. (The flip side, of course, is that many of the consumer Wi-Fi vendors are spending relatively little on research and development, and are mostly repackaging designs and firmware licensed from other companies.)
Proxim, in all its incarnations and source companies, including Mac-networking firm Farallon, has always developed good software for its good hardware. Agere's track record with Orinoco has been mixed, partly because of the company's transition, its initial focus on a high-end corporate market, and the speed of development that nimbler firms had hopped on.
My assessment: a big win for consumers and businesses alike.
Apple considers 802.11g enhancement for AirPort?: this is hardly news or a secret, but it neatly dovetails with today's Proxim/Agere announcement. When I spoke to Apple's wireless team about Bluetooth a few months ago, I asked about 802.11a and 802.11g, and they openly, for publication, stated that they were looking very closely at them and waiting for ratification and/or deployment. Apple is smart to not follow the 802.11a path, as, for their customers, 10/100/1000-Mbps Ethernet, which Apple has helped pioneer as a basic feature, is more important than early adoption of a higher-speed wireless spec. Rather, Apple should deploy 802.11g as soon as it's feasible (it's not ratified yet, and won't be potentially til next year) for AirPort 3.0 and make AirPort 4.0 a dual-radio a/g chipset.
One side note: the article linked to says that 802.11a and g both do 54 Mbps. Incorrect. 802.11g includes the 802.11a OFDM modulation as a mandatory encoding method, but that was done for comity, not for technical purposes, to bring TI and Intersil back to the table. No one I know claims that the 802.11a OFDM will bring 802.11g to 54 Mpbs. That's a nominal speed. The two optional encodings, OFDM-CCK and PBCC-CCK, are both clocked at 22 Mbps with a potential to go higher in future releases. Even the "54 Mbps" in 802.11 is really more like the mid-30 Mbps when you remove overhead and look at real throughput, according to early testing.