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Qualcomm Atheros

Qualcomm Atheros
Founded May 1998
Headquarters San Jose, California, USA
Key people
Teresa H. Meng, founder and director
Craig H. Barratt, Former President and CEO
Products Ethernet, WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS, powerline communications, hybrid wired/wireless, location
Parent Qualcomm

Qualcomm Atheros is a developer of semiconductors for network communications, particularly wireless chipsets. Founded under the name Atheros in 1998 by experts in signal processing from Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley and the private industry, the company went public in 2004.

On January 5, 2011, it was announced that Qualcomm had agreed to a takeover of the company for a valuation of US$3.7 billion. When the acquisition was completed on May 24, 2011, Atheros became a subsidiary of Qualcomm operating under the name Qualcomm Atheros.[1]

Qualcomm Atheros chipsets for the IEEE 802.11 standard of wireless networking are used by over 30 different wireless device manufacturers.[2]

Wilocity, a fabless semiconductor company found by ex-Intel employees in 2007, was purchased by Qualcomm in July 2014, and absorbed into Qualcomm Atheros. Qualcomm Atheros thus gaining know-how for IEEE 802.11ad (60 GHz).


  • History 1
  • IPO 2
  • Acquired by Qualcomm 3
  • Products 4
  • Acquisitions 5
  • Free and open-source software support 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Qualcomm Atheros Headquarters in San Jose, CA

Atheros was co-founded in 1998[3] by Teresa Meng, professor of engineering at Stanford University and a researcher in digital signal processing and radio frequency technology, and John L. Hennessy, then provost and now president of Stanford University. The following year, Atheros named Rich Redelfs as president and CEO. In 2000, Atheros publicly demonstrated its inaugural chipset, the world's first WLAN implemented in CMOS technology and the industry's first high-speed 802.11a 5 GHz solution.

In 2002, Atheros launched the first dual-band wireless solution,[4] the AR5001X 802.11a/b.

In 2003, Atheros named Craig Barratt president and CEO. That year the company shipped its 10-millionth wireless chip.[5]

In 2013, Qualcomm named Amir Faintuch as SVP and General Manager for Qualcomm Atheros.


In 2004, Atheros completed its initial public offering on the NASDAQ exchange[6] and unveiled a number of products, including the first video chipset for mainstream HDTV-quality wireless connectivity.

In 2005, Atheros introduced the industry's first MIMO-enabled WLAN chip,[7] as well as the ROCm family of high-performance, low-power WLAN solutions for mobile handsets and portable consumer electronics.

In 2006, Atheros launched its XSPAN solutions,[8] which featured a single-chip, triple-radio solution for 802.11n. In this same year, they began to collaborate with Qualcomm on a 3G/Wi-Fi solution for CDMA and WCDMA-enabled handsets.

In 2008, Atheros launched the Align 1-stream 802.11n solutions for PCs and networking equipment.[9]

In 2010, Atheros shipped its 500-millionth WLAN chipset[10] and 100-millionth Align 1-stream chipset. They released the first HomePlug AV chipset with a 500 Mbit/s PHY rate.

Acquired by Qualcomm

In January 2011, Qualcomm agreed to acquire Atheros at $45 per share cash. This agreement was subject to shareholder regulatory approvals.[11] In May 2011, Qualcomm completed its acquisition of Atheros Communications for a total of US$3.7 billion. Atheros became a subsidiary of Qualcomm under the name Qualcomm Atheros. Under Qualcomm Atheros, the division unveiled the WCN3660 Combo Chip, which integrated dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and FM into Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors. Qualcomm Atheros launched the Skifta media shifting application for Android[12] and released the first HomePlug Green PHY solution at the end of the year.

In 2012, Qualcomm Atheros announced a Wi-Fi Display product at CES 2012,[13] along with a new chip for HomePlug AV power line networking. At Mobile World Congress 2012, Qualcomm Atheros demonstrated a suite of 802.11ac enabled products.[14] This included the WCN3680, a mobile 802.11ac combo chip targeting smartphones and tablets. In June 2012 at Computex, Qualcomm Atheros added new 802.11ac products.[15]


WLAN – Qualcomm Atheros offers wireless connectivity solutions, including their Align 1-stream 802.11n chips, and the XSPAN 2-stream with SST2 and 3-stream with SST3 chips for 802.11n. The Align 1 also supports WLAN for mobile with up to 150Mbit/s PHY rates for smartphones and portable consumer electronics. Qualcomm Atheros also offers legacy WLAN designs for 802.11a/g.

Power line communication (PLC) – Qualcomm Atheros is a member of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. Its AMP brand of powerline chips support the IEEE 1901 global powerline standard that supports high-definition multimedia and real-time gaming at a 500Mbit/s PHY rate. Low powered chips, such as those built for HomePlug Green PHY, are targeted toward smart grid and smart home applications.

Ethernet – Qualcomm Atheros offers the ETHOS line of Ethernet solutions, as well as the low-energy EDGE line, which supports the IEEE 802.3az-2010 Energy Efficient standard.

Hybrid Networking – Qualcomm Atheros' hybrid networking technology, Hy-Fi™, integrates WLAN, PLC, and Ethernet technologies. The technology, which complies with the IEEE 1905.1 standard for hybrid home networking, is capable of detecting the optimal path for data to be transferred at any given moment.

Location Technology – In 2012, Qualcomm Atheros announced its IZat location technology. The technology uses multiple sources, such as satellites and WLAN networks, to pinpoint the location of the user.

Bluetooth – Qualcomm Atheros offers Bluetooth chips for a variety of platforms. The company also offers integrated combo WLAN and Bluetooth chips.

PON – Qualcomm Atheros delivers broadband access technology in the form of passive optical network (PON) technologies. End-to-end gateway solutions incorporate standards such as IEEE 802.3ah, multiple-channel, software-based, digital signal processing for the G.711 and G.729 ITU standards for VoIP, and TR-156 Broadband Forum PON standard.


ZyDAS Technology – a USB Wireless LAN company headquartered in Hsinchu, Taiwan, acquired in 2006.[17]

Attansic Technology – a Fast and Gigabit Ethernet chip maker headquartered in Taiwan, acquired in early 2007.[18]

u-Nav Microelectronics – a GPS chipmaker headquartered in Irvine, CA, acquired in 2007.[16]

Intellon Corporation – a public company with powerline communication (PLC) solutions for home networking, networked entertainment, broadband-over-powerline (BPL) access, Ethernet-over-Coax (EoC), and smart grid management applications. They were acquired in late 2009.[19]

Opulan Technology Corp – EPON broadband access technology developer in Shanghai, China, acquired in August 2010.[20]

Bigfoot Networks – an Austin, Texas-based company acquired in September 2011, with application-aware networking technologies that are being marketed under the trademarked brand-name of StreamBoost.[21]

Ubicom – a company known for their processor and software designed to optimize network data, acquired in February 2012.

DesignArt – small cell chip company that combined several radio technologies on a single chip, used to provide wireless backhaul to smaller base stations. Acquired in August 2012.[22]

Free and open-source software support

In the free software movement, Atheros had been known for not releasing the appropriate documentation that would allow developers to write free and open-source device drivers to support Atheros wireless devices without resorting to reverse-engineering.[23] As a result, open-source support for Atheros hardware was limited. However, there were some completely free open-source drivers written via reverse-engineering techniques. For example, Reyk Floeter of the OpenBSD project reversed-engineered the HAL-module of the ath driver found on FreeBSD and provided a completely free driver for Atheros devices. Additionally, Nick Kossifidis of the MadWiFi project based on Floeter's work started madwifi-old-openhal branch in February 2006[24] in order to create a free driver for Linux. Kossifidis performed some further reverse engineering to add support for most ar5k chips and made various code improvements. His code made it to ath5k,[25] a driver for Atheros chips that is now included in the Linux kernel.

Atheros was featured in OpenBSD's songs that relate to the ongoing efforts of freeing non-free devices.[26]

In July 2008, Atheros changed its policy and hired two Linux wireless developers, Jouni Malinen (developer of HostAP) and Luis Rodriguez, and released an open-source Linux driver for their 802.11n devices.[27] Atheros also released some source from their binary HAL under ISC license to help the community add support for their abg chips. Atheros has been actively contributing towards the ath9k driver in Linux, with support for all 802.11n chipsets.[28] Atheros has also been providing documentation and assistance to the FreeBSD community to enable updated support for 802.11n chipsets in FreeBSD-9.0 and FreeBSD-HEAD.[29]

As can be seen in the article comparison of open-source wireless drivers, there are completely free and open-source software drivers available for all Qualcomm Atheros IEEE 802.11 chipsets, except for the current generation (802.11ac) wireless cards using the ath10k driver that require non-free binary firmwares to work.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Qualcomm Atheros :: Corporate :: Press Releases
  2. ^ Companies that use Atheros wifi chips
  3. ^ Atheros Timeline
  4. ^ First dual-band wireless solution
  5. ^ 10-millionth wireless chip
  6. ^ Atheros Launches IPO
  7. ^ First MIMO-enabled WLAN chip
  8. ^ XSPAN Launched
  9. ^ Align Launched
  10. ^ 500-millionth WLAN chipset
  11. ^
  12. ^ Skifta Launched
  13. ^ Wi-Fi Display announced
  14. ^ 802.11ac ecosystem launch
  15. ^ 802.11ac portfolio
  16. ^ a b Qualcomm Atheros product pages
  17. ^ Zydas Acquisition
  18. ^ Attansic acquisition
  19. ^ Intellon acquisition
  20. ^ Opulan acquisition
  21. ^ Bigfoot Networks acquired
  22. ^ Ubicom acquisition
  23. ^ OpenBSD to support more wireless chipsets
  24. ^ OpenHAL
  25. ^ About ath5k
  26. ^ OpenBSD release song lyrics
  27. ^ Atheros unveils free Linux driver for its 802.11n devices
  28. ^ ath9k - Linux Wireless
  29. ^ dev/ath(4) - FreeBSD Wiki
  30. ^ Firmware files for ath10k, a mac80211 driver for QCA9880 - GitHub

External links

  • Qualcomm Atheros homepage
  • Atheros Madwifi support in Linux – historical
  • Atheros-supported ath9k 802.11n chipset support
  • Community-driven legacy Atheros chipset support in Linux
  • Community-driven FreeBSD atheros chipset support, pre-802.11n and 802.11n chipsets
  • Open source utility package for management INT6400, AR7400 and AR7420 chipsets, known as HomePlug technology
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