TAIPEI—Qualcomm, the world’s largest supplier of chips for mobile devices, announced a suite of chips today at the Taipei Computex electronics show that it expects will extend Wi-Fi to enable new functionality such as 4k media streaming and wireless virtual reality.
The company said the family of tri-radio chips will bring high-end performance and greater ease of use into mainstream 802.11ac routers for home networks. IEEE 802.11ac is an extension of Wi-Fi for high-throughput wireless local area networks on the 5 GHz band.
Qualcomm announced the IPQ40x9, a quad-core, ARM processor SoC with two 2x2 11ac radios and gigabit Ethernet. That chip can be paired with a two-stream radio, the QCA9886, for mainstream routers with 2.2 Gbps of aggregate capacity or with the four-stream QCA9984 to boost premium routers and repeaters to 3.1 Gbps.
The company says one of its overarching strategies is the aim to enhance the consumer experience in a dense, congested environment of wireless technologies that at this point aren’t being fully utilized.
“You have to secure and deliver the three major pillars of capacity, context and experience and convergence,” said Qualcomm Senior Vice President Rahul Patel in a presentation to reporters at Computex.
The new chips are designed to bring premium Wi-Fi features like multi-user MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) and Qualcomm’s SON (self-organizing networks) technology into mainstream routers and smart repeaters. The self-configuring features make onboarding and configuring new devices, including Bluetooth devices, on a Wi-Fi network much easier, the company said.
The new chips provide the capability to do things like wireless docking on a desktop PC because performance exceeds that of a typical USB cable, according to the company. Devices with connectors that have been incompatible with a PC can now be linked wirelessly, Qualcomm said.
Capacity means using more spectrum and more antennas more efficiently, Patel said. For example, that could mean using all the antennas in a device even if they are not designed for Wi-Fi.
Qualcomm’s SON technology includes self-managing features to eliminate guesswork from allocating capacity with tri-band products by automatically shifting traffic between bands and radios depending on real-time conditions.
Qualcomm’s Rahul Patel speaks to the press at the Taipei Computex show, May 31, 2016.
The chips combine two 5 GHz radios and a 2.4GHz radio to provide greater flexibility in the way that routers or repeaters use wireless spectrum and capacity, improving connectivity in various network configurations. In homes using a mix of Wi-Fi technologies, a router can dedicate the 2.4 GHz radio for legacy devices, and reduce network congestion, freeing up bandwidth for newer 802.11ac devices.
Qualcomm said several systems companies will offer products based on the new chips later this year.
“Tri-radio technology in conjunction with MU-MIMO is becoming more important for a seamless home Wi-Fi experience. In today’s connected home, there are more devices simultaneously connecting to Wi-Fi and consuming massive amounts of bandwidth driven by video streaming and online gaming,” said Justin Doucette, senior director of product management at Linksys.
—Alan Patterson covers the semiconductor industry for EE Times. He is based in Taiwan.