Qualcomm adds 802.11ad and SON to its WiFi offering

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In July 2014, Qualcomm acquired one of the pioneers of WiGig, a WiFi-like standard for the 60 GHz band, now under the auspices of the WiFi Alliance. In doing so, it put mobile platforms at the heart of the WiGig agenda and wrested some leadership from Intel, which had previously made the running, focusing mainly on fast PC-periperhal interconnect.

Now it is bringing multimode WiFi/WiGig chipsets to market, well ahead of a market which has otherwise been somewhat lukewarm – SiBeam has the only other commercial 60 GHz chip, while Broadcom and others like Lattice (owner of another pioneer, Silicon Image) have merely made noises about it. Qualcomm-Atheros has not only brought 11ad to the table, but merged them with another technology in which it was an early mover, 802.11ac wave 2 WiFi designs with Multiuser MIMO.

One of the main use cases for 60 GHz wireless is to spray a TV signal across a single room (given the limited range) without a wire, using the high available bandwidth (57 GHz to 64 GHz is licence-free in the US and many other regions). Qualcomm is now looking to communicate with devices in 2.4 GHz (still the most common); 5 GHz, including the more stable multiuser technology; and 60 GHz for high bandwidth devices in the same room, such as a UHD TV.

Qualcomm said that several companies plan to release products in the coming year that use its new chips, and these will include smartphones from LeTV, access points from Elecom, NEC and TP-Link, and notebooks from Acer and Asus. SiBeam will also use the new chips in adapters. The firm will also offer combinations of 11ad with its Snapdragon 820 mobile SoC and its Internet Processor (IPQ) 8064 reference designs.

In a cluster of announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show (see separate item), Qualcomm also announced its contribution to the ongoing industry move to bring SON (self-organizing network) capabilities, initially developed for cellular, into WiFi. Its software adds to WiFi’s existing elements of self-organization to support four key capabilities – to be self-configuring to enable plug-and-play deployment; self-managing to offer autonomous performance optimization; self-healing to resolve connectivity bottlenecks; and self-defending to secure the network from unauthorized access.

Some WiFi access points and operator implementations already have some of these features. Most equipment vendors have made their APs plug-and-play, while TR069 supports remote management, though not self-management, though some have firmware to check their environment and change channels. Ignition Design Labs announced a system at CES which supports self-healing. In other words, Qualcomm’s announcement is likely just the start of a flood of similar developments to extend the inherent WiFi capabilities and perhaps to converge cellular and WiFi SON within a single structure, to help with mobile/WLAN HetNet deployment.

Asustek, D-Link, Linksys, TP-Link, and Airtight Networks all came out in support of the Qualcomm technology.

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Peter has been involved in technology for 35 years, and is now the Lead Analyst at Faultline, a digital media research service offered by Rethink Technology Research. In his work at Faultline Peter has built an understanding of wired and wireless Triple Play and Quad Play models including multiscreen video delivery, taking in all aspects of delivering video files including IPTV. This includes all the various content protection, conditional access and digital rights management, encoding, set tops and VoD server technologies. Peter writes about all forms of video delivery is fascinated with the impact IP is having on all of the entertainment fields, and calls his service Faultline because of the deep faults which can devastate large established companies operating in the fields of consumer electronics, broadcasting, content delivery, content creation, and all forms of telecommunications operators, as content begins to be delivered digitally. Peter is currently advising major players and start up ventures in this field, and has both written and validated business plans in the area.

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