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Ref designs target hybrid home networking

Posted: 21 Oct 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:reference design  Wi-Fi  powerline  Ethernet  home networking 

Atheros Communications rolls out three consumer reference designs that combine Wi-Fi, powerline and Ethernet links targeting hybrid home networking.

The three designs expand the range and bandwidth of home networks by putting together wired and wireless nets. Products based on the designs are expected on the market by November.

Atheros' roots are in Wi-Fi silicon. In September 2009 it acquired powerline chipmaker Intellon for the HomePlug AV standard. The reference designs use a mix of existing Atheros and Intellon chips as well as some new silicon Atheros will announce later.

"We are beginning on a path of hybrid networking we think is important for the industry," said Todd Antes, VP of marketing for the digital home group, Atheros.

The reference designs include a 2.4GHz single-band 802.11n router with 2x2 MIMO antennas that also support HomePlug AV powerline networking and is expected to sell for less than Rs.4,669.60 ($100). A HomePlug adapter with a built-in Wi-Fi range extender will sell for Rs.2,334.80-Rs.4,669.60 ($50-$100), and a HomePlug adapter with outputs for wired Fast Ethernet links will sell for less than Rs.2,334.80 ($50).

"I love the idea, but I haven't tried it," said Craig Mathias, principal of market watcher Farpoint Group. "Using wired and wireless together makes perfect sense," he said.

Atheros hands data off between the powerline and Wi-Fi networks at the Ethernet level and provides software so users can manage the hybrid nets as a single home network, Antes said. The HomePlug AV chips can deliver up 200-230Mbit/s of application-layer consumer data throughput, he added.

"I am really intrigued by how far powerline has come," said analyst Mathias. "It used to be comical, but now we are looking at seriously high performance that could address requirements of a wired residence quite well," he said.

Atheros has at least two design wins for its hybrid designs that will come to market this year and more that will ship in 2011, said Antes. Beyond the current designs aimed at do-it-yourself home networks, Atheros plans to release next year hybrid designs geared for service providers.

The service provider products likely will be aimed at IPTV providers in Europe, many of whom use HomePlug-based powerline networks for video distribution in the home. Carriers are starting to need more than 50Mbit/s in the home to handle multi-room digital video recording services, a requirement that is driving beyond the limits of a single network, Antes said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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