NEW YORK — In the ramp up to ubiquitous 60-GHz technology, Qualcomm has acquired Wilocity, a developer of 60-GHz wireless chipsets based on the IEEE 802.11ad standard, also known as WiGig. Qualcomm is the first major player to publicly integrate 60 GHz into its roadmap; terms of the deal were not released.
"We see this as more than an acquisition, it's more of a call for action for the rest of the industry to get ready for 60-GHz WiFi," Wilocity CEO and co-founder Tal Tamir, now vice president of product management for Qualcomm Atheros, told EE Times.
To manage an expected 1,000x increase in mobile traffic in the coming years, Qualcomm plans to offer a family of tri-band platforms based on the Snapdragon 810. The multi-band platform would combine Qualcomm Atheros' WiFi and WiGig solutions, operating at 2.5 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz "to significantly increase performance and enable cutting-edge wireless applications."
"While 802.11ac enables Gigabit WiFi networks to offload mobile traffic, 60-GHz technology brings multi-gigabit speeds, significant capacity improvements, and power efficiency that are integral to meeting the challenges posed by next generation media applications," a Qualcomm release stated.
Tamir added that .11ad-based devices "shine" in dense networks such as apartments and homes, though the product is currently being shipped for enterprise. While Dell's commercial PC group was the first to launch WiGig products, Tamir expects the technology to be in smartphones by next year as well as in Cisco's networks.
"There is a growing demand for high-speed desktop and LAN connectivity, and we know this is just the beginning for 60-GHz applications -- making it that much more important that the industry is ready to deliver," Kirk Schell, vice president of Dell's commercial PC group, said.
The whole home coverage of .11ac with the in-area multi-gigabit connectivity of .11ad will provide a superior connected experience, the release continued. Integration of WiGig into mobile platforms will also allow for near-instantaneous access to the cloud and greater cellular network offload.
"WiGig will play an important role in Qualcomm's strategy to address consumers' increasingly sophisticated smartphone, tablet and computing requirements to support applications -- such as immediate streaming of 4K video and high throughput peer-to-peer communication to enable the next generation of social interactions between users sharing content," said Qualcomm Atheros President Amir Faintuch. "Ultimately, the integration of WiGig will help Qualcomm fulfill its 1,000x vision to densify the network to address increasing mobile data demand."
Qualcomm Atheros has been an investor in Wilocity since 2008 and the companies collaborated on development and distribution of tri-band solutions beginning in 2011. As such, several analysts weren't surprised by the acquisition.
"It's a big deal in the sense that it's consolidating everyone working on .ad in general," Linley group analyst Loring Wirbel told EE Times.
Wirbel said many developers think 60 GHz could get into smartphones in two to three years.
Additionally, Wirbel expects competition from other major specialists such as Broadcom and Intel, citing a paper Intel published through IEEE on a client's small cell backhaul product. The paper did not elaborate on the silicon design. Should Intel's paper refer to a 60-GHz device, such development is indicative of the large market swath open to .11ad.
"Everybody is tentatively dipping their feet in the water to see what makes sense to them to try to develop from a market perspective," Wirbel said. "The market is probably going to belong to Broadcom, Qualcomm and Intel, but it'll be interesting to see these little startups come up."
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times