Wi-Fi majors talk up 802.11ac at Computex
Broadcom, Qualcomm and Marvell all seek differentiation with their pre-standard gigabit Wi-Fi chipsets
Published: 6 June, 2012
The major Wi-Fi chip suppliers are using the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week to show off their wares in the emerging 802.11ac market for gigabit wireless Lans. Qualcomm Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell took different approaches to announcing pre-standard silicon earlier this year, but in Taipei all three were bullish about the latest iteration of Wi-Fi.
This will initially target HD video and home media networks but is also expected to find roles in enterprise WLans, metrozones and even smartphones (in a low power, single-stream version). However, the Wi-Fi Alliance will not start its certification program until early 2013 so any devices released this year will be pre-standard. Vendors claim any modifications which will be required for full compliance will be minor and unlikely to affect the user experience.
Qualcomm Atheros demonstrated its portfolio at the event, with Bluetooth 4.0 integration its point of differentiation. It will provide one-, two- and three-stream solutions for various levels of performance and different application areas. Initially its main focus is on tablets and notebooks.
The company says its 802.11ac products will support more than three times the Wi-Fi performance of 802.11n per stream with a peak PHY rate of 1.3Gbps using triple streams. The offerings also include Bluetooth 4.0 with low power mode for connecting mobile computers to wireless keyboards, headsets, speakers, printers and other peripherals.
For tablets, Qualcomm showed off the WCN3680 mobile 802.11ac solution with integrated Bluetooth 4.0 and FM. This can be paired with the firm's Snapdragon APQ8064 application processor. The Wi-Fi chip supports 433Mbps maximum PHY rates, with end user throughput of up to 200Mbps for tablets running Windows 8, Windows RT, Android or other Linux variants.
For notebooks, the QCA9862 and QCA9860 are two- and three-stream, dual-band 802.11ac solutions with integrated Bluetooth 4.0. The PCIe-based designs support up to 1.3Gbps (three-stream) or 867Mbps (two-stream) PHY rates for notebooks running Windows or Linux. An enhanced Fast Channel Switch (FCS) feature maximizes concurrent throughput and performance with access points and peer-to-peer connections. The chips are sampling now, and the architecture will be extended to other target products such as access points.
At Marvell, the firm has released a low power 11ac offering, the Avastar 88W8897 combination radio chip. This wireless SoC incorporates NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 alongside the new Wi-Fi standard, and will add Miracast when this is available. Miracast was popular among chipset providers in Taipei, following the Wi-Fi Alliance's recent announcement of a certification program. The technology supports high speed wireless connectivity to displays and once the Alliance's program gets underway this summer, it is expected to put significant pressure on vendor specific alternatives like WiDi and AirPlay.
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