Most existing wireless N routers, such as the Cisco Valet Plus or the Netgear WNDR3700, are based on the dual-stream standard that offers speeds of up to 300Mbps. There are also "light" versions of wireless N routers that are based on a single-stream standard and cap at 150Mbps, such as the TP-LINK TL-WR941ND.
However, the wireless N standard also allows for multiple-stream applications, and this is soon going to find its way to consumer-grade products.
Atheros, a top maker of chips that power networking products, debuted its first three-stream wireless N solution chips Tuesday--the Xspan AR938x and Xspan AR9390 for consumer-grade and business-grade applications, respectively. These chips raise the ceiling speed of wireless N to 450Mbps.
The company says these two new chips are also designed specifically to enhance video streaming. They combine 3x3 802.11n architecture with a unique set of range enhancements, called Signal Sustain Technology-3 (PDF), which is capable of boosting throughput speeds by up to 50 percent across the entire wireless link.
The routers powered by these new chips will provide much-improved video-over-wireless and other multimedia and gaming experiences over existing N routers. To put this in terms of a real-world throughput number, Atheros claims the new chips can sustain a speed of 75Mbps over a distance of 100 feet, which translates to three simultaneous HD videos streaming.
Like existing dual-stream chips, Atheros' new Xspan chips will also offer wireless operation in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The company says that it is shipping the chips in volumes now to major wireless vendors, so consumers can expect new three-stream wireless N routers by the end of the year.