Atheros Puts 802.11g on Single Chip

Atheros Communications expects to support 802.11g wireless networking on a single chip to be released in the second quarter, potentially lowering the cost of putting the technology in notebooks and personal digital assistants.

The AR5005G combines a baseband processor, a media access controller (MAC), and a radio on a single chip. This integration represents an industry first, says Colin Macnab, vice president of marketing and business development for Atheros. The company will be able to provide the wireless technology on a single chip for a lower cost than the multiple chips that currently provide that capability, he says.

Chip Specs

The 802.11g standard is gaining momentum as a faster alternative to the more widely used 802.11b standard. Devices based on either standard can work with each other, but 802.11g products offer up to 20 megabits per second of bandwidth. Under normal conditions, 802.11b networks are limited to about 4 mbps or 5 mbps. This is still faster than the 2 mbps or 3 mbps provided by many home broadband Internet connections.

Competition is tight among Wi-Fi silicon vendors for design wins, and cost is often an important factor when notebook and PDA designers need to pick a wireless chip, says Will Strauss, principal analyst with Forward Concepts in Tempe, Arizona.

A single-chip product not only reduces costs, but also allows the notebook or PDA designer to build a smaller product, he says.

Competition Tight

Atheros expects to be able to price its 802.11g chip at $12 when ordered in quantities of 10,000 units. Most 802.11g chip sets sell for about $15 to $18 in quantities of 10,000 units, depending on the product, Strauss says. Broadcom was first to market with 802.11g silicon, and it enjoys an advantage in this market right now, Strauss adds. Broadcom has a single-chip 802.11b product but has yet to extend that technology to the 802.11g standard, giving Atheros a possible opening to gain market share, he says.

Atheros plans to come out with a single-chip product that supports both 802.11g and 802.11a networks later this year, Macnab says. The AR5005G is available now in sample quantities to manufacturers, he adds.

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