Marvell pushes gigabit Wi-Fi into HD video
Claims 4x4 MIMO and unique beamforming approach will give it an edge in enterprise and carrier markets
Published: 4 December, 2012
Marvell continues to push the envelope in gigabit Wi-Fi chips as it tussles for position in this crowded sector. It has added the latest member to its Avastar family - the 88W8864 system-on-chip - targeting high end applications supporting the pre-standard 802.11ac specification.
Although the new chip will be suitable for retail devices such as home gateways, Marvell's primary target will be HD video, enterprise and hotspot gear, where there are higher margins and somewhat less fierce competition, compared to the cut-throat router segment, where Broadcom, Qualcomm Atheros and others battle for share.
Pushing 11ac at an early stage into the high end will showcase Marvell's 4x4 MIMO technology, which also uses beamforming, and tap into trends such as Wi-Fi offload for mobile carriers and whole-home HD video streaming for broadband providers. While start-ups, notably Quantenna, have produced 11ac chips with 4x4 antenna arrays, targeting home video, the big players have so far stuck to 3x3 configurations, although Marvell claims there is rising demand for the higher end platform - and even for future arrays with eight antennas on each side, or even more.
The 802.11ac standard is the latest Wi-Fi extension and supports speeds of over 1Gbps in 5GHz spectrum using wide channels combined with MIMO. The standard is not finally ratified yet but the Wi-Fi Alliance will establish a certification programme once that happens early next year, and Marvell says it is confident that only very minor alternations will be required to comply. First generation, pre-standard products have already come to market, especially in the router space.
The Avastar 88W8864 is currently sampling and promises peak data rates of 1.3Gbps, an increase of up to three times over the preceding standard, 802.11n, at twice the power efficiency. This is Marvell's second 11ac chip, following the Avastar 88W8897, introduced in June. This features 2x2 MIMO and is a 'combo chip'incorporating Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC, and targeting mobile computing.
The new model will be integrated into a broad range of Marvell's media reference platforms for video and network SoC. It features beamforming to improve link robustness and support seamless video streaming. Marvell differentiates itself by supporting both implicit and explicit beamforming, which boosts performance even for devices which do not themselves implement beamforming. The company claims its BF technology, which is used throughout the Avastar family, outperforms other DSP techniques by six times in terms of extending range, as well as prolonging battery life for devices connected to the network.
Other features of the new chip include channel bandwidth up to 80MHz; 256 QAM modulation; a Wi-Fi offload engine and integrated Wi-Fi position engine; and multistream, low latency HD video support.