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Atheros brings Wi-Fi connectivity to handsets

Posted: 04 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wi-Fi  802.11n  Bluetooth 

Atheros Communications has unveiled a Wi-Fi chip for cell phones that supports a single-stream version of the latest 802.11n standard. The Atheros Wi-Fi chip will be up against giants such as Broadcom and Texas Instruments, who have been winning sockets in handsets with .11g chips that have integrated Bluetooth and FM radio features.

The Atheros AR6003 is a 5mm x 5mm device that supports throughput up to 85Mbps at 5GHz using 40MHz channels or 48Mbps at 2.4GHz using 20MHz channels. The chip consumes 20 per cent less power than Atheros' previous .11g chip for handsets.

"The trend is to have more things integrated on a single peripheral chip," said Will Strauss, principal of market watcher Forward Concepts. "What's going to happen is some cell phone makers will put this [Atheros chip] in as a flagship handset at more cost because they'll have to have separate Bluetooth and FM radio chips which will add cost," he said.

The question for Atheros will be how broad the market for .11n capabilities will be in handsets. "I don't know I have anything on my cell phone that needs 40Mbps, but people using video may need it," Strauss said.

Others said the nascent market for .11n chips in handsets is just beginning a rapid growth cycle. "Forty per cent of all handsets sold in 2012 will have Wi-Fi, and almost all of this will be single-stream 802.11n, so, the market opportunity here is huge," said Craig Mathias, principal of Farpoint Group.

Atheros estimates about 10 per cent of all cell phones and 90- per cent of smart phones now include Wi-Fi. Broadcom and Ralink already have single-stream .11n chips, Mathias said.

Atheros will have its AR6003 in production by June. The 65nm device integrates a power amplifier and needs no external EEPROM memory. It will sell for prices similar to the company's existing AR6002 chip.

Separately, Atheros announced the AR6133, a combo Wi-Fi .11n and Bluetooth 3.0 system-in-package aimed at portable consumer devices. However, it is not suitable for cell phones because it uses a Class 2 Bluetooth die and handsets require a Class 1.5 design.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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