SAN JOSE, Calif. Quantenna Communications Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) officially joins the ranks of companies crafting high-end variations of 802.11n silicon today (Oct. 14).
The startup is using 4x4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas along with beam forming and mesh technologies to deliver an aggregate throughput of up to a Gbit/second. The company uses two chips, one each for 2.4 and 5 GHz links.
Two other startups recently announced 5 GHz chips that aim to offer new levels of Wi-Fi performance based on variations of the .11n standard.
its switched MIMO approach uses up to eight antennas and beam forming to carry up to four high definition video streams across 50 meters and penetrate multiple walls. Amimon uses a novel encoding technique and a 4x5 MIMO configuration to hit up to 1.5 Gbits/s, and has gathered an ad hoc group of consumer electronics giants to refine its specification.
All three companies compete with an expanding set of wireless options for the digital home including some using 60 GHz frequencies or ultrawideband approaches.
For its part, Quantenna claims it delivers twice the 300 Mbits/s physical layer throughput of existing Wi-Fi chips from established vendors including Atheros and Broadcom. Founder and chief executive Behrooz Rezvani said one of those companies may move to 4x4 MIMO by the end of next year, but they may not also adopt the beam forming approach.
"In addition, we are a factor of 4-5 times smaller than anything in the market," said Rezvani. He noted his two-chip module reference design measures about 2.5 x 2 inches to enable plug-in devices such as the Apple Airport Express.
The chips use a version of mesh networking, based on concepts under discussion in the 802.11s group, where each node can act as an access or relay point. Rezvani said a mesh of wall plugs is the best way to assure whole house coverage across the broad range of homes.
"They are a bit ahead of my projection for when 4x4 MIMO would emerge, and it's a power hungry technology," said Craig Mathias, principal of consulting firm Farpoint Group (Ashland Mass.). "But I think 4x4 is eventually going to be an important opportunity, so they are staking out the high group and that's always a good thing for a startup to do," he added.
The Quantenna chips can be configured for 2x2 or 4x4 operation using only 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz or both. In this way, the startup aims to attack a broad range of designs from TVs and set-top boxes to computers and business and consumer gateways.
The chips integrate power amplifiers with 18 dBm maximum output along with the components typically used in radio front-end modules such as switches, baluns and diplexers. An on board DSP handles the beam forming work and an ARM 926 does switching and routing jobs.
The 2.4 and 5 GHz chips sample before the end of the year and consume less than 10W maximum when transmitting at up to a Gbit/s aggregate. They will cost less than $20 each in volume when in production early next year.
Rezvani was a founder of Ikanos Communications, a designer of chips for last-mile systems. He said the idea for Quantenna came from discussions with service providers such as AT&T and Verizon who said they wanted home network technologies that hit 100-200 Mbits/s and beyond.
"There was really no technology to solve this problem two and half years ago when we started, and it was not even clear then that 802.11n would succeed," Rezvani said.
The startup has taken on about $27 million in venture capital to date and plans another round early next year to help fund its manufacturing ramp. Rezvani would not discuss his road map, but he did say he did not see the need to drive Wi-Fi to 60 GHz to gain the next level of performance, despite current efforts in that direction.