Atheros has produced a new, cheaper chipset that will result in wireless access points running the latest 802.11n draft standard for under $100.

Draft 802.11n products started appearing soon after the first draft of the standard was finished early this year. They are not expected to be fully compatible with the final standard, coming sometime next year but can deliver a boost in speed and range over current-standard 802.11g gear by using multiple antennas and radios.

Most draft 802.11n routers cost $120 to $130 at retail, but vendors are aiming for retail prices below $100 for the Xmas shopping season. Pre-standard products are selling well despite costing more prices and are expected to jump when prices fall later this year.

Atheros already has draft 802.11n offerings that use three transmitter radio-and-antenna combinations as well as three receiver units. The new XSpan 2x2 uses just two of each. That means a step down in throughput, but products using it will still be much faster than today's standard gear: more than 100Mbit/s at 50 feet or 25Mbit/s at 150 feet, according to the company's estimates.

To help drive down costs, Atheros also introducing its own central processors for wireless LAN routers. The AR7100 processor will come in 300MHz and 400MHz versions, each with a variety of interfaces including support for two USB ports for wireless LAN printers or other devices. The 300MHz processor will support 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet and the faster version will support Gigabit Ethernet, said product manager Harpreet Chohan. He expects most customers to buy the central processor and chipset together.