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Atheros Upgrades WLAN Chips

Atheros's fourth-generation WLAN chipsets double the range of WiFi, reduce power consumption by 60%, and add network management tools

September 15, 2003

6 Min Read

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Atheros Communications, a leading developer of advanced multimode wireless LAN chipsets, today announced two new chipsets featuring breakthrough technologies to extend the range and reduce the power consumption of 802.11 wireless networks. When they are incorporated into WLAN devices, the chipsets will offer end users extended range, longer battery life, and network management tools that help reduce the cost of operating and owning wireless networks.

The Atheros chipsets use the company's eXtended Range (XR) technology to give Wi-Fi products twice the range of existing designs, and they have power-saving design improvements that reduce 802.11a/g power consumption by 60 percent over 802.11b solutions. The chipsets are the first in the industry to provide important integrated wireless network management capabilities, including Wake-on-Wireless(TM) and Wake-on-Theft(TM). These features enable users to remotely manage their wireless devices and raise an alert if they are stolen.

"If Wi-Fi technology is to become truly ubiquitous, wireless LAN products will need to deliver better range and use less power in order to integrate the technology into smaller form factors such as PDAs and smart phones," said Mike Feibus, principal analyst of TechKnowledge Strategies, Inc. "Indeed, solutions that are compatible with the standards yet improve performance and range while lowering power consumption will spark the next stage of growth in the wireless LAN market."

"We've incorporated important technical advances into our fourth-generation silicon to improve and drive the adoption of the next wave of wireless designs," said Craig Barratt, president and chief executive officer of Atheros. "Our new chipsets raise the bar on throughput, range, manageability and power consumption for the next generation of wireless LAN products."

eXtended Range Technology Doubles Wireless Range

Traditional Wi-Fi chipset architectures focus on maximizing throughput in order to perform well in benchmarks and typical office environments. Such designs typically don't perform well at long range or in difficult environments, such as multi-story homes. Atheros' new chipsets feature a signal processing architecture that dramatically stretches the performance of a WLAN by embedding separate optimized designs for high performance, high signal-to-noise and long range, low signal-to-noise ratio environments. The architecture delivers receive sensitivities of up to -105dBm, over 20 dB better than the 802.11 specification.

Atheros' eXtended Range (XR) technology enables a single access point to cover multi-story brick or masonry homes and eliminates dead spots in corporate networks. It also enables Wireless Internet Service Providers to deploy public hot spots with coverage cells up to a kilometer wide. The eXtended Range operation is transparent to end users, and wireless products enabled with XR technology are fully interoperable with Wi-Fi compliant third-party chipsets.

New Power Management Approach Improves Power Consumption by 60 Percent Over 802.11b

Conventional wisdom holds that 802.11b chipsets consume less power than 802.11g or 802.11a chipsets. Atheros' latest products debunk that myth. The chipsets enable a multi-phase approach to signal processing that dramatically extends the battery life of mobile devices. The new design controls the power of different sections of the wireless device according to the level of system and network activity. This reduces the power consumption of the new Atheros chipsets when receiving 802.11a/g by more than 30 percent compared to the 802.11b device used in Intel(R) Centrino(TM) systems; power consumption is more than 20 percent lower during transmit. The effect on battery life is even greater because these measurements compare an 802.11a/g device operating at a 54Mbps data rate with an 802.11b device operating at 11Mbps.

Especially significant is the performance of the new chipsets in idle mode, which accounts for most of the operating time of wireless LAN products. In idle mode, the power consumption of devices based on the new Atheros 802.11b/g and 802.11a/b/g chipsets is about 95 percent lower than that of the 802.11b wireless devices used in Centrino systems.

Wake-on-Wireless and Wake-on-Theft Reduce Network Management Costs

Many companies rely on network management systems that remotely control and administer desktop computers. Power consumption and design limitations have traditionally prevented these systems from being used with wireless devices. Atheros' Wake-on-Wireless capability brings network management to the Wi-Fi environment.

Enterprise management tools can administer wireless systems equipped with the new Atheros chipsets and take advantage of their remote wakeup and alert features just as if the wireless devices were on a wired network. The Wake-on-Wireless capability is compatible with existing network infrastructure equipment, management software, and industry standards for remote wakeup functionality.

Atheros is also introducing a new Wake-on-Theft capability. This function can alert network administrators if a mobile device such as a laptop or PDA equipped with the new Atheros chipsets is removed from a company's facilities without authorization. The Wake-on-Theft function can also wake-up and raise an alarm on the mobile device, even if the device is powered off.

New chipsets available in volume

Atheros' fourth-generation AR5004 chipset family includes dual-band 802.11a/b/g and single-band 802.11b/g designs. The chipsets are available now in volume.

  • AR5004X -- The dual-band 802.11a/b/g chipset provides universal wireless connectivity to any 802.11 network, anywhere in the world. The ability to support all the major wireless networking standards future-proofs WLAN deployments and delivers the highest performance.

  • AR5004G -- The single-band 802.11b/g chipset provides 802.11g functionality and performance for the home and small office users offering a flexible upgrade path for legacy 802.11b networks.

The AR5004G supports 802.11b and 802.11g in the 2-GHz band from 2.300 to 2.500 GHz. The AR5004X adds support for 802.11a in the 5-GHz band from 4.900 to 5.850 GHz, thus enabling tri-mode or universal WLAN products. The AR5004X meets international requirements for WLAN operation based on the draft 802.11h and 802.11j standards. The only products to have CE marking for 5.470 GHz European operation and TELEC certification for 4.900/5.030 GHz Japan operation are based on Atheros chipsets. Both chipsets include support for emerging security standards such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and draft 802.11i Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with no performance reduction, and draft 802.11e Quality of Service enhancements. A single driver and firmware code base supports all Atheros chipsets, and provides both backward and forward compatibility with Atheros' previous and next-generation multi-standard designs.

New Chipsets Also Support Super G and Super A/G

Atheros' fourth-generation chipsets also feature the company's Super G(TM) and Super A/G(TM) technology, which delivers 108Mbps data links with actual end user TCP/IP throughput of up to 90Mbps in 802.11a/b/g, 802.11b/g and 802.11a wireless networks. Super G and Super A/G are backward compatible with conventional 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11a products, and also support mixed-mode operation with Atheros and third-party solutions in the same network. Super G and Super A/G performance enhancement features were introduced with Atheros' third-generation chipsets in May 2003.

Atheros Communications Inc.

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