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Atheros slashes cost for dual .11n routers

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Atheros Communications Inc. has designed a card for home WiFi routers that aims to slash in half the price of a dual 802.11n network device. The company will roll out the design at Computex in Taipei this week as part of its effort to proliferate the latest high-end WiFi technology.

The Xspan AR9002AP uses four Atheros chips including separate 2.4 and 5 GHz 802.11n transceivers, a 680 MHz network processor and a Fast or Gbit Ethernet controller on a single-sided board. The company claims competitors use as many as six chips and many more discretes on multiple dual-sided boards to serve similar designs.

“Today dual, concurrent WiFi routers cost $200 or more at retail and that has never been a consumer friendly product at that price level,” said Todd Antes, vice president of marketing at Atheros. “With this design you can get into the $100 sweet spot,” he said.

Demand is rising for two 200 Mbits/s .11n links in the home given today's video game consoles and an increasing number of cellphones and media players use WiFi.

“In the home network today it's not uncommon to find five to ten devices on a network,” Antes said. “Today most people are still trying to do that on a single 2.4 GHz network, but there is plenty of untapped spectrum in WiFi they could be using,” he added.

With the new router design, savvy home users could put latency-sensitive traffic on the 5 GHz network. Less time-critical traffic could ride the 2.4 GHz link, Antes suggested.

Atheros hopes to make .11n technology available in all WiFi product segments soon. A new generation of .11n client controllers aimed at entry-level notebooks will emerge, perhaps before the end of the year.

Currently most entry-level notebooks use 2.4 GHz .11g technology. Middle-tier products tend to use dual band .11ag chips today, he said.

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