Intel will be introducing a tri-mode Wi-Fi chip this Thursday that combines the ability to receive signals from 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g (802.11 a/b/g) wireless standards. Until now Intel has only offered chips with 802.11 b/g, forcing notebook manufacturers to offer non-Intel chips to satisfy those buyers that wanted 802.11 a/b/g enabled notebooks.
This means that notebooks branded with Intel’s “Centrino” technology can have an 802.11 a/b/g chip. Technically a notebook is not a Centrino notebook if it does not have both an Intel Pentium M and Intel branded wireless chip inside. This meant that until now any true Centrino notebook could only have the ability to receive 802.11 b/g wireless signals. If notebook manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Fujitsu and others wanted to offer their notebooks with a Pentium M chip and 802.11 a/b/g chip then they were forced to use some manufacturer other than Intel for the wireless chip, which therefore made the notebook a non-Centrino machine.
802.11a can accommodate more network traffic at up to 54 megabits per second, which is equivalent to 802.11g. The most important feature of 802.11a is that it is not interfered with by cordless phones or microwaves, such as 802.11 b/g, because it uses a different wave band to such products. If an office is using an 802.11 b/g network then when somebody uses the microwave oven, the network can slow down or become unusable in that area.
The problem with 802.11a is that there is not much support for it right now and it is not compatible with 802.11 b/g receivers. So, if you have a wireless card that receives 802.11 b/g signals then if a router is broadcasting an 802.11a signal, you will not be able to use that signal. However, if you have a router that broadcasts an 802.11b signal, then a wireless card that receives either 802.11b or 802.11g signals can use that signal.
Some think that now Intel is supporting 802.11a it will become more popular. However, in my opinion 802.11 b/g networks will remain by far the most popular due to the number of products already in homes and on the market so the move to 802.11 a networks will be slow and minimal. If you buy a new notebook today, it’s nice if you can get a chip that supports 802.11 a/b/g, but if you want to save money or don’t have the option of getting 802.11 a/b/g wireless in your notebook then don’t worry too much about the 802.11a.