RealTime IT News

Atheros Rolls One Die With 802.11g

Wireless semiconductor maker Atheros is advancing its wireless LAN strategy with an all-in-one 802.11g chip.

The new chip, announced Monday, combines three main aspects of what Atheros calls a quintessential 802.11g system -- Media Access Controller (MAC), baseband processor, and a 2.4 GHz radio -- in a digital CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) design. The processor is the company's third-generation 802.11g silicon. Previously, Atheros launched a three-chip combination in February 2003, and a two-chip .11g arrangement in June 2003.

The breakthrough to a one-die 11g, according to Atheros vice president of marketing and business development Colin Macnab, is a combination of the company's proprietary silicon and noise-canceling techniques.

"The challenge with the radio and the digital section is that the digital section creates a lot of noise in the same space that the radio is trying to operate in," Macnab told internetnews.com. "It's like being at a company dinner and you are trying to hear the speaker, but the table next to you is making too much noise. What we did is to cancel or dampen the outside RF [radio frequency] noises on a standard digital CMOS."

Macnab said the AR5005G is for client-side hardware, but the company does have wider aspirations.

"What I do see this going into is the consumer space and I fully expect you will be seeing our products in flat screen, DVDs, digital TVs, and projectors -- all parts of the digital home marketplace," Macnab said.

Atheros said its other advantage is that its AR5005G supports the latest wireless security standards, including Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) and 802.11i Enhanced Security using the Advanced Encryption Standard. The new chip also supports Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX).

The company said it is planning on expanding its family of single-chip 802.11 "g" and combination "a-g" products throughout 2004. The family of single chip products will also support extended range operation, XR, which allows for connections at greater distances from the access point and parts of the home where signals are otherwise too weak to connect.

As a wireless technology, 802.11g is the hottest thing around. More comprehensive than standard Wi-Fi , the .11g standard incorporates.11b's Complementary Code Keying (CCK) to give it bit transfer rates of 5.5 and 11Mbps in the 2.4Ghz band. In addition, 802.11g adopts 802.11a's Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) for 54Mbps speeds but in the 2.4Ghz range.

According to IDC, 802.11g products accounted for about 20 percent of WLAN shipments in the first quarter of 2003. Atheros said its single-band 802.11g chip will be marketed to home and small office users and customers that want to upgrade from the slower speeds of their current 802.11b networks.

With its 802.11g products, the company is miles ahead of rivals such as Intel , which recently added 802.11g to its Centrino lineup and AMD , which flavored its Athlon XP mobile chips with the faster wireless technology.

Macnab said the AR5005G will ship for $12 in 10,000 unit quantities.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup, which has filed to become a publicly traded company, said its AR5005G chip is currently sampling with partners and should be ready for manufacturers in the second quarter of this year.

Atheros' hardware is found in PCs from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NEC, Sony and Toshiba as well as wireless LAN gear manufacturers D-Link, IO Data, Linksys and Microsoft.