Power-Saving WiFi Specification Released

December 08, 2005 by Jeff Shepard

New software specifications that could yield 15% to 40% longer battery life in Wi-Fi-enabled devices were announced this week by the Wi-Fi Alliance as part of the group's efforts to promote the proliferation of wireless technology.

In an announcement today, the nonprofit organization said its new WMM Power Save specifications are an extension of its existing Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) Program and are meant to provide Wi-Fi product developers with ways of boosting battery life in cell phones, handheld computers and other wireless consumer electronics devices.

Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the 6-year-old Austin, Texas-based Wi-Fi Alliance, said the new specifications will help application developers use the software code that operates Wi-Fi devices to save on power usage. In particular, the specs provide details about how software and products can be better integrated to operate only when needed, conserving power between user sessions.

"It's all about sleeping at the right time," Hanzlik said.

The first products certified under the new WMM Power Save specifications are being announced today. They include several components used in wireless products. Wi-Fi telephones and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices featuring the new components are expected to hit the market within the next few months, Hanzlik said.

The first products using WMM Power Save are the AR5002AP-2X access point from Atheros Communications Inc., the AirForce BCM94704AGR dual-band 802.11a/g access point and the AirForce BCM94309CB dual-band 802.11a/g PC card from Broadcom Corp., Cisco Systems Inc.'s AIR-AP1231G-A-K9 and AIR-RM21A-A-K9 access points, Conexant Systems Inc.'s 802.11a/g Prism WorldRadio chips sets, Marvell Semiconductor Inc.'s 802.11a/b/g WLAN router, Ralink Technology Corp.'s 802.11a/g Mini PCI and the Mini PCI 802.11a/b/g WLAN Client from Winbond Technology Corp.

Some vendors of wireless devices will likely offer software upgrades for existing products so those devices can take advantage of the power-saving specifications, he said. Users should check with their hardware manufacturers to see if upgraded software will be available.

The new specifications have to be incorporated in hardware in both client devices and access points for users to gain full advantage of the new features, meaning it could take a while for users to see any power savings.

By the end of the year, Wi-Fi capabilities will be included in 90% of the laptop computers sold in the U.S., even as Wi-Fi continues to expand beyond the core computer market, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. "It's all really about improving the user experience," Hanzlik said. "As we begin moving beyond the PC, we think it's going to be very effective" in attracting new users to the technology.