SAN JOSE, Calif. – Atheros Communications is rolling out three consumer reference designs that use a combination of Wi-Fi, powerline and Ethernet links as the first step in its hybrid home networking strategy.
The new designs aim to extend the range and bandwidth of home networks by using a mix of the wired and wireless nets. Some products based on the designs will roll out as early as November.
Atheros, which had its roots in Wi-Fi silicon, bought in September 2009 Intellon, a maker of powerline chips for the HomePlug AV standard. The new 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, vice president of marketing for Atheros' digital home group.
The reference designs include a single-band (2.4 GHz) 802.11n router with 2x2 MIMO antennas that also supports HomePlug AV powerline networking and is expected to sell for less than $100. A HomePlug adapter with a built-in Wi-Fi range extender will sell for $50-100 and a HomePlug adapter with outputs for wired Fast Ethernet links will sell for less than $50.
"I love the idea, but I haven’t tried it," said Craig Mathias, principal of market watcher Farpoint Group (Ashland, Mass.). "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 200-230 Mbits/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 50 Mbits/s in the home to handle multiroom digital video recording services, a requirement that is driving beyond the limits of a single network, Antes said.
Most service providers in North America use either Multimedia over Coax (MoCA) or HPNA over coax networks, technology Atheros does not current offer.
Atheros had no new details on its call last April for a new standard for mesh networking across Wi-Fi, powerline and MoCA networks. Reaction to the call for a standard was initially mixed.