Lucent Technologies has created what it claims is the first all-silicon chip designed for receivers in wireless-network base stations.

Lucent collaborated with Apple for 18-months in the creation of the AirPort base station. AirPort supports up to ten Macs on a wireless network based on the
IEEE 802.11 standard.

The new chip could end up reducing the size and cost of wireless base-stations, Lucent claims. According to the company, base stations currently use 10 to 20 chips which are made of gallium arsenide - a semiconducting material more expensive than silicon.

Satellite technology Gallium arsenide is used in building semiconductors for telecommunications switches, satellite-network equipment and devices such as mobile phones. The chips promise higher performance for lower power than silicon-based chips, but have proved harder to manufacture reliably.

Base stations would only require three of Lucent's new silicon-based chips, the company claims. The chips are 100 times smaller than the gallium arsenide-based technology as well as 10 to 100 times less expensive to produce, Lucent said.

Smaller AirPort The reduced size of the silicon-base chips allows for smaller base stations, which provides more flexibility in where stations are located, Lucent said. The company is looking at ways to combine a base-station radio receiver and digital-signal processor onto one chip with the all-silicon fabrication approach, Lucent said.

The all-silicon radio receivers will work with "all major mobile-wireless standards", including the up-coming 3G (third-generation) mobile standards, Lucent claimed.

Lucent has not announced when its new solution will ship.