Wi-Fi access point squeezed onto single chip

Wireless network kit in the future could be smaller and cheaper, if Atheros' 'AP-on-a-chip' is a commercial success

Wireless chipset manufacturer Atheros announced on Wednesday that it has managed to fit the full functionality of a high-speed wireless access point onto a single processor.

The company claims that the Atheros AR5006AP-G is the first single-chip 802.11g access point to hit the market.

A Wi-Fi access point is made up of several elements, including the media access controller, the radio frequency amplifier and a wireless network processor. This has meant that at least two chips have had to be used.

Integrating all these features on a single chip means that commercial Wi-Fi access points can be smaller, and Atheros says that an access point based on a single chip is around 20 percent cheaper to make than the two-chip option.

"We expect that a single-chip 802.11g solution for access points will be a key driver in helping manufacturers deliver competitively priced consumer wireless gateways," said Ken Furer, semiconductor research analyst at IDC, in a statement.

"We anticipate that the market will continue to move towards more highly integrated WLAN solutions that reduce cost, yet maintain performance," Furer added.

The AR5006AP-G could also be used to wireless-enable a print server, or an external hard drive, Atheros suggested.

Volume production of the AR5006AP-G should start in the first quarter of 2005. It is expected to cost less than $13, in quantities of 10,000 or more.

The ratification earlier this week of the ZigBee standard was another indication that wireless networks are becoming more pervasive, and manufacturers are striving to get their chips into as many devices as possible.

Last month, Cambridge Silicon Radio announced that it was developing a Wi-Fi chip that supported the three most popular Wi-Fi standards.

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