Atheros preps Gigabit wireless

Atheros preps Gigabit wireless

Silicon maker Atheros will put Gigabit Ethernet in all its Wi-Fi access points, to cope with the 200+ Mbit/s speed of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard.

"If people are going to realize the full benefits of 802.11n, we don't want the Ethernet plug to be the bottleneck," said Todd Antes, vice president of marketing for Atheros. "Gigabit in mass-market products is still a rare commodity, because it is more expensive. We want to drive it into the mass market. We expect by 2008 that all new 802.11n AP routers will include Gigabit Ethernet."

Laptops will move to 802.11n next year, said Antes, announcing that some Lenovo notebooks will include Atheros chipsets. Although rival Broadcom announced its 802.11n chips are in laptops from Lenovo and three other manufacturers last week, Antes said Atheros' deal will be stronger in the long term, and claimed other vendors are lining up.

Although most homes and small offices will only have a connection of 20Mbit/s or less to the Internet, Gigabit will be needed in access points because links within the building will be used for multimedia services, said Antes: "It's not all about pulling things off the broadband pipe."

Atheros is buying Taiwan-based semiconductor firm Attansic for its Gigabit technology, which it will integrate into an eventual highly-integrated Wi-Fi router/access point: "We are marching down the integration curve, towards a single chip device," said Antes. "We now have all the core silicon with the exception of memory - and we've no plans to get into that."

Atheros agrees with rival Broadcom that Draft N is ready for widespread use, because compatibility and performance were no longer a problem.

There are continuing concerns over and security and the impact on other systems, but Antes saw this as positive: "It's nice to see the conversation moving to other topics -- we've fundamentally addressed the throughput and range questions."

Atheros also announced it is Microsoft's partner to put Wi-Fi into the Windows CE embedded client. "By the second half of 2007, we expect to see embedded Windows devices such as phones including Atheros' Wi-Fi," said Antes.

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