Size Matters at Computex

It’s no surprise that the focus for Wi-Fi-related vendors at Computex this week was on decreasing size and power consumption while improving networking performance—particularly for the multimedia home market. Among the many companies making big announcements were Atheros and Ubicom.


On Monday, Atheros introduced its new XSPAN AR9002AP, which it says is the industry’s first single-board, dual-radio router platform featuring single-chip 802.11n technology. This new technology can considerably lower the production costs of dual-band home routers, which typically retail for $200 and up. Atheros says it can cut that cost to consumers in half. It also provides up to 600Mbps of wireless networking capacity to support multiple devices on a home network simultaneously.

It features the AR9220 and AR9223 11n single-chip radio/MAC/BB designs to support the 5 and 2.4 GHz bands, respectively. At the core of the AR9002AP platform is Atheros’ AR7161 680MHz wireless networking CPU, which is engineered to maximize 802.11n performance. The platform also offers Atheros ETHOS AR8216 Fast Ethernet or AR8316 Gigabit Ethernet switch options. The system has been integrated on a single, compact circuit board that Atheros says requires up to 50 percent fewer components than competitive solutions on the market.

Using iQUE, Atheros’s new quality of service technology suite designed to enhance wireless networking in the home, the AR9002AP platform is also able to intelligently prioritize multimedia traffic to deliver smoother HD video streams and VoIP. The newest generation of multimedia devices, such as The Netflix Player by Roku (which features Atheros technology) perform best with dual-band routers. [Stay tuned for a Netflix Player by Roku review later this summer.]

On the WAN, Atheros iQUE technology employs classification and prioritization algorithms, which analyze packets transmitted or received over broadband to optimize the flow of content in the network. On the WLAN, the AR9002AP utilizes several QoS techniques, including video transmission control algorithms and multicast-to-unicast translation to help ensure smooth delivery of video and other digital content.

The AR9002AP platform complies with industry standards 802.11e, WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia), and WMM PowerSave. It also features Atheros UAPSD (Universal Advanced Power Save) technology, which enhances the battery-life of mobile devices connected to the AR9002AP-based routers.

On Wednesday, Atheros announced that its popular XSPAN 802.11n solutions are featured in the next-generation AMD notebook platform featuring AMD Turion X2 Ultra Processors.

The Atheros AR9280 dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 2×2 MIMO and AR9281 single-band (2.4GHz) 1×2 MIMO PCI Express (PCIe) designs integrate the radio, baseband/MAC, and host PCIe interface into what Atheros says is “the industry’s smallest 802.11n footprint.”

Reference designs are available for both PCIe half-Mini Card and full-Mini Card form factors. The AR9280 and AR9281 provide impressive power savings and 11n rate over range performance, supporting up to 300 Mbps physical data rates and more than 200 Mbps of real user throughput.

The AR9280 and AR9281 also support Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS, and Linux operating systems. In addition, they include support for WMM, Wi-Fi Protected Setup via Atheros’ JumpStart for Wireless, the company’s industry standardized simple network configuration software, and Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX).

Ubicom IP7K1.jpg

On Monday, Sunnyvale, CA-based Ubicom, a provider of communications processor and software solutions, unveiled its new family of StreamEngine processors for home networking and connected media devices. According to Ubicom, the StreamEngine 7000, an extension of Ubicom’s well-received StreamEngine 5000 family, doubles networking performance with lower power in a smaller package and a reduced bill of materials. 

Ubicom says its UBICOM32 multi-threaded architecture has been enhanced and extended to increase the amount of work done per clock cycle by 20 percent, which pushes the maximum clock frequency above 500MHz, resulting in two to three times the performance at the same frequency for most applications using a traditional single-threaded RISC processor.

The number of hardware threads has increased from 10 to 12, allowing more work to be done in parallel and enabling support for a wider range of interface options via Ubicom’s software I/O technology.

“The StreamEngine 7000 family of processors extends Ubicom’s innovative architecture,” said Joseph Byrne, senior analyst at The Linley Group in a Ubicom press release Monday. “The StreamEngine processors can deliver much higher performance per clock than standard RISC processors because of Ubicom’s optimized hardware and software architecture. The company eases system design by providing complete reference designs and standards-based software APIs.”The StreamEngine 7000 family of processors is sampling now, with volume production in Q4 2008.  

For more on Computex announcements, read “Eee, Atom, Aspire, Wind: It’s a Small (Notebook) World at Computex,” “Broadcom Announces New Single-Chip 802.11n Products,” and “Wi-Fi PAN Technology Takes a Step Forward.”

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet. Formerly based in San Francisco, she now works from Western Massachusetts.

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