TI’s New Family Of WiFi Chips

cccc Texas Instruments’ CC3000 WiFi chip is the darling of everyone producing the latest and greatest Internet of Thing, and it’s not much of a surprise: In quantity, these chips are only $10 a piece. That’s a lot less expensive than the WiFi options a year ago. Now, TI is coming out with a few new modules to their WiFi module family, including one that includes an ARM micro.

The CC3000 has found a home in booster packs, breakout boards for the Arduino, and Spark, who are actually some pretty cool dudes.Still, the CC3000 has a few shortcomings; 802.11n isn’t available, and it would be really cool if the CC3000 had a web server on it.

The newest chips add these features and a whole lot more. [Valkyrie] got his hands on a CC3100Boost board and was pleased to find all the files for the webserver can be completely replaced. Here’s your Internet of Things, people. The CC3200 is even better, with a built-in ARM Cortex M4 with ADCs, a ton of GPIOs, an SD card interface, and even a parallel port for a camera. If you’re looking to pull a hardware startup out of your hat, you might want to plan your Kickstarter around this chip.

It’s all very cool stuff, and although the bare chips aren’t available yet, you can get an eval module from TI, with an FCC certified module with the crystals and antenna coming later this year.

30 thoughts on “TI’s New Family Of WiFi Chips

  1. Nice, but if $10 is for WiFi only, how much does the chip cost with integrated CPU? And why is it so expensive, even in quantities? On eBay I can get a WiFi USB dongle for EUR 2.36, free shipping.

    1. because the 10 bucks chip probably loads your mcu a lot less than anything that is in a wifi usb dongle, even the one without integrated cpu. i mean, it still needs to buffer stuff, and respond to interrupts, allocate memory, etc, in addition to demodulating and decoding radio waves, so dont think the one officially wihtou cpu is too barebones….

      the 10 usd dongle is not a huge load for a computer processor, but it might make a world of difference to a microcontroller….

      not a specialist here, just guessing…

    2. The usb dongle doesn’t have the wifi stack built-in. The stack is executed on software within the host. There isn’t a opensource wifi stack software for barebones avr or arm microcontrollers that could be used with usb dongles, It simple doesn’t exist(correct me if i’m wrong please because i was looking for a long time).

      1. USB WiFi is a standard and Linux supports it, which works on ARM as well. So I guess you have to add a $5 ARM chip as well (if the dongle supports USB OTG) and extract the Linux driver functionality. But this could be your main microcontroller anyway, if all you want to do is controlling some GPIO pins.

        1. Sure, but then you need to run Linux with a full USB stack as well. That means you need a much more capable host CPU, as well as things like memory management peripherals and USB host peripherals. So, you balloon your CPU cost from a few dollars in quantity to more like $10. It’s a false economy.

          1. No, you don’t need to run Linux to use the WiFi driver. Sure, a lot of work to extract just the WiFi functionality, but should be possible. And memory managment is available even small PIC microcontrollers (no MMU, but this is not necessary for such a simple task).

          2. @Frank Buss I don’t think you know what you are talking about. You can’t just extract the wifi “functionality” from linux. Most of the kernel’s code is wrapped up in driver framework and module loading.

          3. @TheInternet I know what I’m talking about. Of course you’ll need to extract parts of the USB framework and the network stack as well, and maybe implement simpler versions of other missing interfaces to avoid pulling the whole Linux kernel. I didn’t say it would be easy :-)

          1. Franck, the “USB WiFi standard” is a way to do USB-over-Wifi, not a way to connect a Wifi interface through USB (read the beginning of the section “1.2 Design goals” : “Wireless USB is a logical evolution of USB. The goal is that end users view it as the same as wired USB, just without the wires.”).
            So yeah, as robert says, you need different drivers for each chipset. And the whole drivers stacks run on the computer.

    3. Also, huge difference in power consumption, specially when low power is needed.

      I can’t wait until we will be able to get $5 modules with integrated cpu off ebay.
      I think TI is headed that way.

    4. Everyone’s answers are terrible, I’d swear they are all noobs and kiddies. What your referring to is a usb wifi dongle, that is a wifi radio with maybe onboard mips, but the mips and radio only talk to a driver stack, network stack, usb stack, etc on the host computer, in sum a huge software stack on the host. To make a usb dongle work as you refer to you require a host computer with the compliant software, this on the other hand does not. This could directly connect to wifi, and with the onboard mcu control outside devices, with no need for a comp in between. Your comparing apples to carrots, not only are they not in the same family, they don’t serve the same purpose.

    1. $29.99 (usd) is for the launchpad dev board, not the chip on its own. I haven’t found a price for the chip on its own yet…

      1. From http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20140616-903197.html :

        Pricing and availability:

        — SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3100 and CC3200 solutions are available now through TI
        eStore and TI authorized distributors:

        — CC3200 LaunchPad is available for $29.99

        — CC3100 BoosterPack + CC31XXEMUBOOST + MSP-EXP430F5529LP bundle
        is available for $49.99

        — CC3100BOOST + CC31XXEMUBOOST bundle is available for $36.99

        — CC3100 and CC3200 production units will be available in July and will be
        part of TI’s sample program.

        — CC3100 –$6.70 per 1,000 units

        — CC3200 –Starting at $7.99 per 1,000 units

        — CC3100 and CC3200 modules will be available in 3Q

  2. Following TI’s CC3300 SmarConfig fiasco (http://e2e.ti.com/support/wireless_connectivity/f/851/t/253463.aspx), I won’t ever trust a semiconductor manufacturer that pretends to embed a reliable WiFi stack into a low-end MCU.

    For $10, yo ucan get an Atheros AR9331 (the one used in TPLink TL-WR703N pocket routers) 400 MHz MIPS SoC-based module from China with 16 MB Flash, 64 MB DDR2 and OpenWrt on it. Not real time, but attach a $1 MCU of your choice and fly.

    0.5W during 18dBm WiFi operation.

    1. SmartConfig Fiasco? I’m not sure what you mean. I have SmartConfig working great on the cc3000 and I posted all the source code to cc3000.codeplex.com. Also, TI gives you a javascript client that shows how they pass the SSID and password. And, there were a lot of blog posts discussing everything in great detail here: http://depletionregion.blogspot.com/2013/10/cc3000-smart-config-transmitting-ssid.html

      A third-party client could easily be written based on that blog post alone.

      Having, said all that. Yeah, that patent response was super ridiculous. I’m sure TI thought the less people knew about how it worked, the less likely someone would be to find a flaw… But, anyone could have figured it out. TI provided the client source code…

  3. Isn’t it fascinating how one can read one day about the shortage of IPv4 addresses and the next day one can read about a major corporation stamping out gazillions of IPv4-only devices. Someday IPv4 addresses will cost more than mainframe computers.

  4. I think the Atmel parts will still be cheaper. And the ATSAMW23 is a single chip solution w/ an Cortex-M0+ core which will be lower power consumption (at the expense of processing power).

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