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Atheros releases first Wireless-N/Bluetooth combo minicard

Atheros adds both Bluetooth and Wireless-N to a portable computer via a single mini PCI add-in card.

Generally, wireless functions--such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular data, and so on--are added to your portable computer via add-in cards. These cards share the same PCI standard as other PCI add-in cards found in desktop computers, but they are much smaller in size.

Though small, there are only so many add-in cards a laptop, and especially a Netbook, can accommodate. For this reason, what Atheros, a known maker of wireless solutions, introduced Tuesday is a significant development.

The new 802.11n/Bluetooth combo add-in card for Netbooks and laptops. Atheros

The company announced Tuesday the industry's first single-stream 802.11n and Bluetooth combo solution on a Half MiniCard form factor for the PC market, the AR9002WB-1NGB add-in card. The card features Atheros Align 11n 1-stream technology and Atheros ROCm Bluetooth technology.

This means a laptop or Netbook will just need this one card to have both wireless solutions. The card offers a Wireless-N connection up to 150Mbps (single-stream, as opposed to 300Mbps in other dual-stream Wireless-N solutions found mostly in desktop computers).

According to Atheros, the combo card enables a wide array of simultaneous wireless applications on the same device while still conserving the device's battery life. For example, a Netbook will be able to support concurrent audio and data transfer applications, such as playback on Bluetooth-enabled speakers of music stored on a laptop, while browsing the Internet and syncing a smartphone's contact database from the same laptop.

While this has been done before, there used to be two separate cards required, with the performance of each card being adversely affected by the other because both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi share the same 2.4Ghz frequency. The new combo card, as Atheros claims, leverages the wireless signal of the two wireless technologies in such a way that they complement each other.

The AR9002WB-1NGB includes an AR9285 single-chip 1-stream 11n PCIe solution, which, according to Atheros, has been used in millions of PCs worldwide, and an AR3011 Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR single-chip solution. The AR3011 Bluetooth chip supports robust WLAN coexistence and simultaneous connectivity of multiple Bluetooth-based devices. The AR9002WB-1NGB combo card is software upgradeable to support Bluetooth 3.0.

The AR9002WB-1NGB add-in card supports Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Linux operating systems. It's currently being tested by Atheros customers and you will likely find it in new laptop and Netbook computers soon.