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MediaTek lays groundwork for gigabit WLANs

The company has introduced a platform for building 802.11ac routers

Semiconductor company MediaTek has introduced a system-on-a-chip (SoC) that will be used to power wireless routers based on the 802.11ac wireless networking standard, which promises gigabit speeds, the company said on Monday.

The upcoming 802.11ac standard will offer higher speeds than what is currently possible using 802.11n thanks to the use of more spectrum and more advanced antenna technology.

MediaTek's RT6856 Wi-Fi SoC contains a 700 MHz MIPS CPU and two PCI Express interfaces to enable interoperability with 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips, which the company is also working on, MediaTek said.

Besides being built into routers and access points, the RT6856 can also be used to integrate Wi-Fi into consumer electronics products that previously lacked the capability, without at the same time requiring processor upgrades.

The RT6856 can encrypt traffic using IPsec while also handling routing and hardware network address translation (NAT) acceleration, MediaTek said.

Hardware and software design kits as well as samples for access points and routers are now available, according to MediaTek, which didn't elaborate on when actual products based on the SoC will become available.

MediaTek isn't the only company that has started pushing 802.11ac.

At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas several companies -- including chip maker Broadcom and Trendnet, which develops routers and adapters -- will demo products.

At first, Broadcom will focus on chips for use in PCs, routers, TVs, set-top boxes and other home products, the company said last week. Devices might start shipping by midyear, even though the Wi-Fi Alliance isn't expected to start certifying products before the fourth quarter, according to Broadcom.

Trendnet is showing the TEW-811DR wireless router, which will be available at the end of the year and cost over US$200, according to the company. The router will be able to handle 802.11n and 802.11ac at the same time using different frequency bands to provide backwards compatibility without compromising performance.

The 802.11ac standard will represent a huge jump in wireless performance, according to Trendnet.

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