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Chipsets roll early for 802.11n

Posted: 01 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:loring wirbel? ee times? 802.11n? .11n? chipset?

Eyebrows shot up recently when broadcom corp. announced sampling of an intensi-fi chipset for 802.11n. Analysts were again taken aback three days later, when Atheros Communications Inc. announced its XSpan AR5008 family for the same standard.

The Broadcom announcement came less than 24 hours after the IEEE unveiled the compromise draft proposal it will take to an 802.11 meeting this month. While MAC- and PHY-layer chips for other 802.11 versions have sampled in some cases between the completion of the draft spec and the balloting for the final standard, the Broadcom and Atheros moves were the first to take place as the ink was drying on an early draft.

Michael Hurlston, VP and general manager of Broadcom's home and wireless-networking business unit, said the sampling schedule for Broadcom's 802.11g Intensi-fi products had been similarly aggressive. Two analysts countered, however, that the earlier chips had been offered between letter ballot and final standard.

"We expect any tweaks to the .11n standard to be minor and we will be able to handle them in software," Hurlston predicted.

Broadcom will offer the BCM4321, a combined MAC and PHY for the 300Mbps 802.11n spec and a companion radio chip!the BCM2055!supporting 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies using multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas. The RF device can work with antenna configurations of 2 x 2, 3 x 3 or 4 x 4.

For router apps, Broadcom will specify two network processors!the BCM4704 for 10/100 Ethernet and the BCM4705 for GbE.

Hurlston said that the volume price for client systems using MAC/PHY-layer and RF chips will be in the mid-$20 range for a two-chip set, while a router chip set integrating a lower-speed NPU will be "in the low 30s, including network processor."

Atheros launched a single-chip triple-radio architecture, called Single-Sustain Technology, in which transmit chains integrate three spatially diverse paths, while three receivers integrate signals for optimal use of MIMO arrays. Atheros CEO Craig Barratt said the design would ensure end-user throughput of up to 180Mb. End-user throughput varies with distance from the access point.

The RF chip is offered in versions for two ISM frequency bands: the AR2133 for 2.4GHz networks, and the AR5133 for dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. The companion AR5416 digital chip!integrating MAC, baseband and host interface functions!uses a PCI host interface. The AR5418 is a version for PCI Express.

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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