Apples iPod touch, iPhone to get huge Wi-Fi boost

Apple seems to be laying the groundwork to introduce high-capacity, low-power 802.11n Wi-Fi to the iPhone and iPod touch, the change would be a huge jump in performance for users.

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Apple seems to be laying the groundwork to introduce high-capacity, low-power 802.11n Wi-Fi to the iPod touch, and presumably to its 3G-enabled companion, the iPhone.

The change would be a huge jump in performance for users of both devices, which now use a Wi-Fi chip that supports 802.11b/g, with a throughput of less than 25Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

But the change would almost certainly mean having to buy a new touch or iPhone with the 11n chip, and some observers say Apple also needs to upgrade the CPU to enable both handhelds to fully exploit 11n performance.

Speculation about 11n support has been rife. But programmers sifting through the recently unveiled beta code of the iPhone 3.0 operating system uncovered some radio component specifications that show a shift to a different Broadcom Wi-Fi chip, the BCM4329, for a future iPod Touch model.

The 3.0 firmware is due to be released this summer, and speculation is circulating that it may coincide with new models of the iPhone 3G and iPod touch.

Announced last December, the highly integrated Broadcom chip combines a complete 802.11 a/b/g/n system (MAC/baseband/radio) with Bluetooth 2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate, and an FM radio receiver and transmitter. It supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. (A detailed vendor spec sheet is available here.)

The dual-band support is important: It lets the device connect to existing Wi-Fi networks at their maximum 54Mbps data rate for 11g on 2.4GHz or 11a on 5GHz. But it also opens up the option of exploiting the much higher 11n data rate in the much less crowded 5GHz band.

Wireless LANs based on Appleā€™s AirPort Extreme base station, and the AirPort Express portable unit, could be segmented to handle future 11n iPhone and touch clients on 5GHz, while keeping 11b/g devices on the 2.4GHz band.

NEXT: Broadcom chip limitations

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