Intel, Cisco team up on Wi-Fi enhancements

They want to improve the quality of VoIP calls and Wi-Fi access

Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. are looking to improve the use of Wi-Fi, initially by delivering better technology for voice over IP and enabling users to automatically connect to the best nearby network, company officials said yesterday.

The partnership's first offering, called the Business Class Wireless Suite, will become available next year, company officials said in a keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Sean Maloney, Intel's executive vice president and general manager of the Mobility Group, also demonstrated a next-generation handheld processor and announced a partnership with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. aimed at developing longer battery life.

The Intel-Cisco partnership also plans to focus on simplifying installation of Wi-Fi to improve both security and ease of use, with initiatives that span both the enterprise and consumer markets. The partnership is an expansion of an existing relationship, according to a statement from the two companies.

To improve the quality of calls over Wi-Fi, Intel and Cisco will introduce technology that can give voice calls higher quality of service than data traffic, said Charles Giancarlo, senior vice president and chief development officer at Cisco and president of the company's Linksys division. There will be components of the technology both on notebook PCs and on Cisco routers, he said.

"VoIP over Wi-Fi turns out to be really, really tricky," Giancarlo said.

The other Wi-Fi enhancement set for release in 2006 will change the way clients automatically select a nearby access point when the user starts hooking up to a business wireless LAN. Rather than connecting to the access point with the strongest signal, clients will choose the access point with the most available bandwidth at the moment, Giancarlo said.

In some locations, this would be a more logical way to connect with Wi-Fi, as long as it logged the client onto a network with a reasonably strong signal, said Greg Collins, an analyst at Dell'Oro Group Inc. in Redwood City, Calif.

"If you have a high density of access points and high densities of users, then it might make sense to have that option," Collins said.

The companies yesterday also announced cooperation on network security. Intel will join Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) program, in which Cisco routers can evaluate security information about a client before allowing it to connect to a network or access particular resources. The idea is to prevent new entrants to a network from introducing vulnerabilities. Among other things, under NAC, a router could check whether the antivirus definitions on a visitor's notebook PC are up to date.

Meanwhile, Cisco will join Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) program, which is intended to make IT systems more manageable, the companies said.

NAC and AMT will be compatible beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, a move designed to help enterprises better defend against security threats, the companies said.

Maloney also demonstrated Intel's next-generation processor for handhelds, code-named Monahans. It will follow Bulverde, the current handheld platform. A Monahans chip was running on a demonstration platform showing full-motion video. The chip was running at more than 1.2 GHz, though Intel does not yet know whether it will manufacture it for speeds over 1 GHz, Maloney said.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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