Atheros to release single-chip 802.11g product

Atheros Communications Inc. will release a single-chip 802.11g product in the second quarter that lowers the cost of placing that technology in notebooks or personal digital assistants (PDAs), Atheros said Monday.

The AR5005G combines a baseband processor, a media access controller (MAC), and a radio on a single chip. This integration represents an industry first, and it will allow Atheros to sell this chip for US$12 when ordered in quantities of 10,000 units, said Colin Macnab, vice president of marketing and business development.

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 can offer up to 20M bps (bits per second) of bandwidth. Under normal conditions, 802.11b networks are limited to about 4Mbps or 5Mbps. This is still faster than the 2Mbps or 3Mbps 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 or PDA designers need to pick a wireless chip, said Will Strauss, principal analyst with Forward Concepts.

Most 802.11g chipsets sell for about US$15 to US$18 in quantities of 10,000 units, depending on the product, Strauss said. A single-chip product not only reduces cost, but allows the notebook or PDA designer to build a smaller product, he said.

Broadcom Corp. was first to market with 802.11g silicon, and enjoys an advantage in this market right now, Strauss said. 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 said.

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

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