Atheros' Latest 11g Targets Broadband Modems
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Wi-Fi chipmakers are always claiming their latest product is the "most integrated," but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not true. The latest example is Atheros' AR2417, the replacement for the AR5005G, the company's bestselling chip ever. Both are part of the AR5007 family of chips.
Like its predecessor, the AR2417 is 802.11g-specific silicon -- this is not the next-generation 11n they brand XSPAN -- because, as Mike Stauffer, director of marketing for the company's carrier business, puts it, "There's a long lifetime ahead for G."
While the AR2417 is small (12x12 millimeters) and highly integrated, with baseband, media access controller (MAC), 2.4GHz radio, low noise amplifier (LNA) and power amplifier (PA) all on one chip to reduce the bill of materials, the main focus for the chip will be gateway products like DSL and cable modems.
Ina Sebastian, analyst at JupiterResearch, says, "Emphasis here is on low cost. Many BSPs [broadband service providers] will continue to standardize on 802.11g until 802.11n is ratified. BSPs are an attractive target for Wi-Fi players, as their role has increased as a provider of Wi-Fi equipment to consumers." According to a survey conducted by JupiterResearch/Ipsos, 43% of homes with a Wi-Fi network have a Wi-Fi-enabled DSL or cable modem.
Stauffer says cost is still a factor, too, as BSPs not only want standards but also want to avoid the still-inflated cost of 802.11n. He expects that 11n running at 5GHz -- the standard supports both 5GHz and 2.4GHz -- will be used for video transmission later, so it won't interfere with existing data connections on a home wireless LAN.
Atheros has been working with BSPs to create a reference design for a turnkey DSL/cable modem with integrated Wi-Fi, using this chip and the XSPAN 11n chips. The company expects to offer it with the chip on a MiniPCI card, and also in a CardBus design with drivers for Windows XP/2000/Vista clients and Linux running on access points. The AR2417 will support full WPA2 Personal with 802.1X authentication, as well as Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), the one-button security setup, via Atheros's own JumpStart for Wireless tech, which is WPS compatible.
The chip is in production now, and with Atheros offering a conversion kit to vendors, it could be in products as early as June.