A Single Chip�in an AP

Chipmaker Atheros Communications is now sampling the AR5006AP-G, silicon the company calls an “access point on a chip.” The single-chip product integrates everything needed not just for wireless (baseband, MAC and radio) but it also includes the network processor that can run the functions needed in infrastructure equipment.

Sheung Li, product line manager at Atheros, says the low cost of the chip’s bill of materials (BOM)—which during sampling is $13 per chip in quantities of 10,000—will mean next year an entire network setup for a home will cost as much as a single router does today.

While “pocket routers” have seen some play this year from companies like D-Link, they generally have to be about the size of a pack of cigarettes to accommodate various chips on the printed circuit board (PCB) inside.

Li says, “Now that’s all in a single chip—a single die, a single package, with all the routing, bridging, firewall, all that, along with the wireless… without needing all the extra space, you’re down to the size of a CardBus card.” He says the biggest part of a product using the chip will be the power supply.

While Atheros designed all the wireless smarts based on their previous single-chip 802.11g, the processor for the other network functions is licensed from MIPS.

Size won’t reduce the features, either. Li says that the new chip will include all the usual Atheros bells and whistles, including the Super-G speed boost, eXtended Range (XR) to ensure longer distances, full security support for 802.11i/WPA2 (with an AES encryption engine in the hardware), and Wireless Media Extensions (WME) for quality of service.

Atheros expects the first products based on the AR5006AP-G to arrive in the spring, as they’ll go into full production in the first quarter of 2005. The price will likely drop even more at that time, making it more attractive to OEMs.

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