NOTE: this page is for archival only, see the note at the end of the page.

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Atheros Linux wireless drivers

This page documents all Atheros Communications Linux wireless drivers.

Shared modules

Atheros drivers tend to follow a lineage of hardware families and as they progress pick things up from one family or another and sometimes keep things the same. So hardware or EEPROM layouts can share certain characteristics and the same code can be reused through different hardware families.

We have a few shared modules for Atheros 802.11 drivers:

  • ath - code that is common amongst all hardware families

  • ath9k_hw - common hardware code for all 802.11n devices

  • ath9k_common - common driver helpers / mac80211 callbacks for all 802.11n devices

The common shared module between ath5k, ath9k, and ar9170 is ath.ko. ath9k and ath9k_htc also share a common hardware module called ath9k_hw. This ath9k_hw module is similar to what would historically have been called the "HAL", but a "HAL" no longer exists in the abstraction sense, instead now we provide direct hardware access. ath9k and ath9k_htc also share a common driver component only for 802.11n devices to help with common 802.11n driver-core level code on the module ath9k_common. The ath9k_common module currently only contains a few helpers to deal with common parsing of the RX descriptors. It can potentially grow to even have full mac80211 callbacks which can be shared between the two drivers.


For support and development for all drivers we use the #linux-wireless IRC channel on

PCI / PCI-E / AHB Drivers


Legacy driver

Upstream driver







USB Drivers


Legacy driver

Upstream driver









ar5523 support under development



ar9170 (Open firmware available)



ath9k_htc support under development (for ar9271)



To help other FOSS Operating Systems, when possible, Atheros licenses their device drivers source code under a permissive license. Atheros picked the ISC License due to historical reasons, mainly that of the ath5k developers also choosing it to help share code between Linux and OpenBSD. Atheros follows this tradition to further assist not only OpenBSD but also other FOSS Operating Systems. There are a few exceptions to using the ISC license on Atheros drivers, when in doubt consult the header of the file for the respective license of the file.

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