SAN FRANCISCO-- Broadcom Corp. has announced the launch of its first Gigabit speed 802.11ac chips, dubbing the new standard “5G Wi-Fi” and boasting support from a host of consumer electronics partners.
The firm said it would show off products incorporating the first family of IEEE 802.11ac chips at the CES show in Las Vegas, next week.
The new Wi-Fi standard was deemed necessary to deal with growing consumer video demands, and is said to provide faster, more reliable coverage, allowing for HD-quality streaming, faster web content loading and less battery life drain.
“Our standard is the standard,” said Michael Hurlston, senior vice president in Broadcom's Mobile and Wireless business unit, noting that he believed Broadcom to be the first “credible vendor” to both announce and ship 802.11ac chips to date.
Broadcom claims its new chips are three times faster and up to six times more power efficient than equivalent 802.11n offerings, boasting an 80 MHz channel bandwidth that is twice as wide as that of the current generation of Wi-Fi.
The chips, which include the BCM4360, BCM4352, BCM43526 and BCM43516, also sport 256-QAM, a higher modulation scheme which purportedly increases data transfer efficiency. The chips are also said to be more adept at beam forming which helps steer content in the direction of the intended receiver, extending the range.
Broadcom said its new BCM4360 supported the PCIe interface -- designed for access points, routers, DSL/cable gateways and PC products -- and implemented 3-stream 802.11ac specifications, reaching speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps.
Meanwhile, the BCM4352 and BCM43526 implement 2-stream 802.11ac specification to reach up to 867 Mbps. BCM4352 supports PCIe interface and the BCM43526 supports the USB interface.
The BCM43516 supports USB –mainly for consumer electronics devices like televisions, set-top boxes and Blu-Ray players-- and reaches speeds of up to 433 Mbps with a single stream 802.11ac implementation.
“The first to market advantage is significant and gives us great momentum in the market,” said Hurlston, adding that Broadcom also felt ahead of its competitors in terms of power advantages.
Designed on 40nm manufacturing process, Broadcom’s new chips are smaller than most of the firm’s competition, which still mainly uses 65-nm, and Hurlston also called the architecture “very unique” from a power perspective.
Hurlston said Broadcom was doing a lot to save power on the chip itself, turning parts off when they were inactive while managing which parts of the chip come up when needed. “This does add increased complexity to the circuitry, but the power savings are significant,” he said.
In addition, by transferring the same volume of data at a much faster rate, the chips allow devices to go into a low-power mode faster than existing 802.11n products.
The industry has already rallied behind the standard, which works with all legacy 802.11 standards and can work alongside other wireless technologies like Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth and NFC.
Gartner has said that this next generation of Wi-Fi is poised for rapid growth across all product segments, with research director Mark Hung calling 802.11ac “one of the most influential mobile and wireless technologies in the years to come.”
Likewise, Best Buy’s CTO Robert Stephens has said 802.11ac, promises to deliver “the best end-user experience yet.”