Atheros Preps Inexpensive Draft-N & Network Processor
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Atheros was one of the first companies out of the gate with a chip to support 802.11n's 1.0 draft earlier this year. Despite the fact that the IEEE won't be moving fast on getting a new draft done don't expect 2.0 until 2007 the chipmaker already has plans in place for a new pre-802.11n (AKA Draft-N) chip that will lower costs. In addition, it will be coupled with the first network processor of Atheros design.
The new Draft-N chip, the AR5008V, is part of the Atheros XSpan brand family. The company will reduce the cost from the original Draft-N chip it has out (the AR5008) by going from a 3x3 MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) design down to 2x2. Those numbers indicate the number of receivers on one end and the transmitters on the other that send data simultaneously to increase throughput. The AR5008V won't send as much, but that brings the cost down.
"We're really focusing on taking 11n mainstream for the market," says Harpreet Chohan, senior product marketing manager at Atheros.
The AR5008V MAC and baseband will stay much the same as in the previous chip. Reference designs for client cards and access points using the chip are with customers today.
After early reports of their respective Draft-N products not working together, Atheros and rival Broadcom issued a joint statement in May saying their respective Draft-N chips would interoperate. Chohan says the new AR5008V has been "verified and validated" in the same way with the Broadcom Intensi-Fi chips.
The AR5008V chip will be the first chip Atheros puts to work with its own network processor chips. Previously, the company has worked with a number of third party solutions like Intel's Xscale processors to get interfaces to things like USB 20, PCI and Ethernet.
The MIPS-core chips include the AR7100B for 300MHz performance on dual 10/100 Megabit per second (Mbps) Ethernet ports and the AR7100P for 400MHz on Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet ports.
"As we move forward, to drive 802.11n to the mainstream, we want to have total solution control," says Chohan. "With our own processor, we have designed it for inherent 802.11n capabilities. With a general purpose CPU, you're not leveraging that." He says the third-party network processors either lack capabilities or cost too much to get the extras like audio and voice support. "It prevents you from targeting mainstream market segments."
Eventually, the 7100 series processors will be integrated with the 3x3 XSpan chips as well to create complete Atheros designs for access points.