Wi-Fi, WiMAX, LTE and CES 2011
1/17/2011 6:45 PM EST
The very day before the kickoff of the 2011 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Qualcomm announced its $3.2B acquisition of Atheros Communications, thus perfectly reflecting the major theme of this year’s CES: "Connectivity Everywhere, Wirelessly."
The combined force of Wi-Fi and 3G/4G cellular technology continues to fuel the red-hot smartphone and emerging tablet market segments. Embedding the latest high-speed Wi-Fi module into a 3G/4G mobile phone greatly enhances user experience, especially for bandwidth-hungry applications such as online video. With the plethora of over 80 tablet devices debuted at this year’s CES, Wi-Fi has clearly become the primary and preferred method of wireless connection to the internet, especially since Wi-Fi access has become ubiquitous at home, work and public venues.
The overwhelming success and adoption of Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity is due largely in part to the existence the IEEE 802.11worldwide standard. Although Wi-Fi has its own myriad of variations (802.11a/b/g/n/e/s…) that may at times be confusing, the fact that they all operate in two common frequency bands (2.4GHz or 5GHz) and in TDD (time-division duplex) mode, has made it much easier to form an ecosystem of hardware and software suppliers for rapid product development and deployment.
According to a recent market forecast by In-Stat, the global Wi-Fi market will reach 1.9 billion units by 2015. Needless to say, we absolutely will see more and more Wi-Fi-enabled electronics gadgets at future CES shows. In fact, the rapid evolution of televisions (TV) and TV-based devices to support wireless internet connectivity and video streaming gives clear evidence of this trend. Already companies like Quantenna Communications, winner of the CES Innovations 2011 Design and Engineering Award, are building 11n-based, 5GHz 4x4 MIMO products to deliver high-quality HD video-over-Wi-Fi services, potentially to every room in the home with a TV! The RFaxis 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and dual-band Wi-Fi RF Front-end ICs (RFeICTM) and antennas are perfectly positioned to support the compelling Wi-Fi forecast and companies such as Quantenna.
The road to 4G cellular, however, is still somewhat divided. There is an on-going race between the WiMAX and LTE camps in the US and globally. Technically, WiMAX is an elegant solution, backed by the well-developed IEEE 802.16 international standard. However, building a nationwide or worldwide infrastructure is very capital intensive and by no means an easy feat. On the other hand, LTE, while a more rational evolution from existing 2/2.5/3G systems, has yet to come up with solid solutions to cover the 20+ FDD bands and around 10 additional TDD bands so that we can all use our cellular phones seamlessly anywhere in the world.
The development of both power-efficient and cost-efficient multi-band/multi-mode RF components poses an unprecedented challenge to the RF/wireless community--which is why the many visitors to the RFaxis CES suite this year showed great interest in our CMOS-based multi-band/multi-mode transmit IC solutions. Clearly, continued innovation is critical for the success of 4G deployment, and RFaxis is committed to support this cause by continuing to blaze the silicon trail with its breakthrough RF designs.
Yongxi Qian is a member of the technical team at RFaxis, Inc.