Atheros ships new Wi-Fi chipsets

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Atheros Communications Inc. released new Wi-Fi chipsets for wireless access points and wireless chips for notebooks Tuesday that increase the speeds at which certain types of data can be exchanged. The chipsets also boost the range of frequencies on which Wi-Fi devices, such as laptops, can operate.

The wireless chipsets are a collection of processors mounted on a board inside a notebook, PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) card, or access point that establish and maintain wireless connections and transmit data. They support a variety of 802.11 standards, including two chipsets that support all three commonly used networks. The new chipsets represent the third generation of Atheros products.

Notebooks with the new chipsets can access data via corporate wireless LANs or public hot-spots faster than with older Atheros technology, and users will able to deploy a home network of wireless media devices based on the chipsets.

All the chipsets based on 802.11a or 802.11g networks come with "Super A/G" and "Super G" technology that can enable speeds close to those possible on wired networks for certain users, said Sheung Li, product line manager for Atheros. That technology can theoretically enable data exchange rates of up to 108M bps (bits per second) using four technologies, but actual speeds will be slower, Li said.

Networks with Atheros chipset technology on both clients and access points can now use two channels simultaneously on 802.11a or 802.11g networks, which can exchange data at peak rates of up to 54M bps each. According to the final standard for 802.11g ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE), pure 802.11g networks are only expected to deliver around 20M bps of throughput in real-world use without optimization.

The Super A and Super A/G technologies break up data packets and transmit them in burst mode, which increases performance but locks other traffic off that channel, Li said. The chipsets also use a technique called Dynamic Transmit Optimization to increase the strength of a Wi-Fi signal so it can travel more reliably through different types of building materials, Li said.

The new chipsets come with a hardware-based compression technology that reduces the size of files on a packet basis so they can be quickly sent around the network, Li said. But some files are unable to be compressed, such as JPEG or MPEG files, which will have to be sent at their regular size.

Despite that limitation, this compression technology will provide the most performance benefits of any of the other techniques, and is unique among current wireless LAN chipset technologies, said Craig Mathias, a principal analyst with Farpoint Group in Ashland, Massachusetts.

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