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 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?

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