The scientists at Bell Labs have been hard at work trying to find new ways to push the technology envelope. Their latest invention is new prototype chips that would enable wireless devices to receive data at speeds as high as 19.2 Mbps on 3G networks.

Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies' research and development arm, said the chips are based on its Bell Labs Layered Space-Time (BLAST) wireless technology. The unit designed the chips for wireless devices that implement multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) technology. Lucent, which has been a strong supporter of the commercial deployment of MIMO technology, will license the chips to wireless handset, PC card and other device manufacturers that are interested in integrating MIMO into future products.

According to Lucent, the two chips, one designed for detecting BLAST signals and one for decoding them, are small enough and consume so little power that they could be placed in cell phones or laptops without having a substantial effect on battery life.

BLAST splits a single user's data stream into multiple sub-streams and uses an array of transmitter antennas to simultaneously launch the streams in parallel. To make efficient use of spectrum, all the sub-streams are transmitted in the same frequency.

The chips far outpace the current maximum speed capability of 2.5 Mbps, Lucent said.

A "substantial" demand for high-speed mobile data access among U.S. and European businesses, according to a recent study sponsored by Lucent. The study found that 3G mobile operators are in a good position to provide services to enterprise customers. Wireless operators were selected by 44 percent of the respondents as the most likely provider of a high-speed mobile data service.

The enterprise market segment is characterized by high subscriber loyalty and a willingness to incur some incremental costs in exchange for nationwide high-speed data coverage, according to the study.

The study was conducted by a third-party research firm and was based on in-depth interviews with more than 1500 telecommunications/information technology managers.