Although the evolution toward higher integration remains at a constant rate of improvement, such integration is only successful if it does not sacrifice performance. Atheros Communications, Inc. claims to have overcome that risk with its single-chip IEEE 802.11a/b/g WLAN solution. Dubbed the AR5006X, this chip integrates an entire 802.11a/b/g solution in a low-cost, digital-CMOS design. The solution comprises the media access controller (MAC), baseband processor, and high-performance radio with both 2.4- and 5-GHz capabilities.
While disposing of one chip of a previous two-chip solution, the AR5006X promises to eliminate the need for up to 24 discrete components. As a result, it claims to enable 802.11a/b/g reference designs that have 15% fewer parts and a correspondingly less expensive bill of materials (BOM). These simpler, lower-cost designs will benefit products like aftermarket PC cards, embedded PCI and mini-PCI cards, access points, home gateways, set-top boxes, digital media adapters, handheld consumer electronics, and voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) handsets.
Like the company's other WLAN chips, the AR5006X supports the IEEE 802.11i security standard. An Advanced-Encryption-Standard (AES) engine is built into the chip set's hardware, allowing real-time encryption with no performance degradation in computing, consumer-electronics, and wireless-broadband applications. The chip set also supports the Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) and draft 802.11e Quality of Service (QoS) specifications.
In addition, the single-chip AR5006X supports Atheros' Super AG performance-enhancement features and eXten-ded Range technology. To increase the throughput and range of wireless-networking products, Super AG employs techniques like Dynamic Turbo with Adaptive Radio technology, packet bursting, fast frames, and data compression. The technology supports up to 108-Mbps link rates. It promises to enable user throughput of more than 60 Mbps. The company's eXtended Range technology provides single-access-point coverage in home-networking environments. In addition to eliminating "dead spots" in corporate wireless LANs, it claims to provide outdoor coverage of up to two times the distance of competing WLAN solutions.
Atheros is currently sampling the AR5006X. Volume production is expected this quarter. The list price for the AR5006X chip is under $12 in 10,000-unit quantities.
Atheros Communications, Inc.
529 Almanor Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94085-3512; (408) 773-5200, FAX: (408) 773-9940, www.atheros.com.