Atheros Chip Creates Wi-Fi Hotspots From 3G Phones


ROCm-loMany folks are enamored by the MiFi — a pocketable, portable device that creates a wireless hotspot around you using 3G technology. It’s definitely an impressive and useful bit of hardware. I’ve always veered from these types of signal routing hardware products in the past, mainly because I can essentially accomplish the same thing using software methods. But, as some would rightly point out, that can be an intimidating or complex solution for many people. Pressing the button on a dedicated hardware device like the MiFi is certainly easier.

Atheros (s ATHR) and NEC wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but they have found a way to offer that same simplicity without adding any additional hardware for you to carry. What if your phone could easily replicate the functionality of the MiFi?

With the Atheros AR6002 Radio-on-Chip for Mobile (ROCm), it can. This wireless chip supports an optional AP Mode, which turns the handset into an Wi-Fi access point by leveraging the 3G connection. AP Mode supports both an infrastructure and ad-hoc network connection type and allows for up to eight device connections in an open Wi-Fi zone, or six in a secured network scheme.

NEC is offering the AP Mode feature in its N-06A handset for NTT DOCOMO’s FOMA network. The device supports HSDPA and Wi-Fi, offers an 8.1-megapixel camera, and sports a 3.2-inch touchscreen with resolution of 854 x 480. I’d be watching for more handsets to adopt this dual-mode chip from Atheros as it offers driver support for Windows Mobile, Linux and Android.

As much as I, too, like the MiFi, a dual-mode solution like this makes more sense to me as a consumer. It doesn’t require another expensive data plan like other solutions, since it leverages the data plan already tied to the phone. And there’s no need to carry around a second piece of hardware since the functionality is built into a device I’d already be carrying. Thoughts?



I’ve been using my phone as a modem for years, and it’s a fine solution for emergencies. But the MiFi takes that concept to a whole new level. And I’m willing to pay for it because the first time we really have to use it, the MiFi will pay for itself many times over. A few specific comments:

1) I need to be able to make/receive calls at all times. That’s the main point of having a phone. If phone calls stop while I’m using the phone as a router, then it’s no good.

2) Again, I need to be able to make/receive calls at all times. If my 4-person sales/support team is using my phone as a router during a meeting and I can’t make calls at the same time, then it’s no good.

3) If the battery time in my phone is compromised by using it as a router, then it’s no good.

4) I like being wireless. Using a USB to connect computer and phone seems so 2005.

So while I expect that we’ll see phone/modem/router devices eventually, I really expect it to take a few more years to get it right. In the meantime, the MiFi seems like a winner.


Many roadwarriors have made a distinct choice to use separate mobile data and voice devices, be it a USB stick, Express/PC Card, or the lovely new MiFi. This tech won’t change that decision, or the reasons for it (redundancy, battery life, voice/data use contention etc).

What this will do, hopefully, is make tethering simpler and more accessible to people like my wife who would use it occasionally but wou’dn’t make use of a $65/mo standalone mobile broadband device.


Other than the fact that this will be vaporware for domestic carriers, not a bad idea.

But, domestic carriers want to get paid for data use so there is no way they’ll install this into phones and allow you to use it unless they get paid.

I’m sticking to mifi. Loving it.


I plug wmwifirouter in when I am using it, but it also only supports adhoc mode which limits the devices that will connect with it.


Da5id: What product do you use on the G1? How much? Where did you get it? Thanks,


I too use WMWiFiRouter. While I like the idea of only having to carry one device and have 1 broadband account, the battery issue is a big one for me and I find myself using a cable tether to my laptop more often than not in order not to drain my phone’s battery.


I do it on my Android phone. I did it on my previous smart phone, too. This is not news.

The only caveat is it tends to eat battery; so I keep my G1 plugged into my computer via USB.

Rick Lobrecht

I have WMWiFiRouter on my WM phone. And while functional (and at this point pretty much one button to start) it will completely drain my phones battery in less than an hour, leaving me with a phone that will substitute as a hot plate. I wonder if having an onchip solution would be more battery friendly.


Can you use the phone and leverage the 3G simultaneously? The concept is nice, but since you would need a particular phone to get this I would pass.

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