Qualcomm unveils pre-standard 802.11ax silicon


There is a pattern in the advanced WiFi chip industry, in which start-up Quantenna makes an early move towards a new standard, and Qualcomm follows hard on its heels. In October, Quantenna unveiled the first access point platform to support the upcoming 802.11ax standard, which will sample to early access partners during this quarter. Now Qualcomm says it has gone one better with an end-to-end 11ax offering.

The latest WiFi standard will not be finalized until later this year so these early products are based on draft 1.0 of the IEEE specifications. This is common practice in the WiFi industry, with some chipmakers wanting to be ready to pounce as soon as the market starts to become real – which usually means having a pre-standard offering that can be tweaked later to bring it in line with any changes to the specs.

The 802.11ax spec is particularly geared to high density, high throughput environments such as stadiums or large apartment blocks, boosting data rates and allowing more simultaneous clients to be supported. It is primarily for indoor use – outdoor operation will be limited to stationary and pedestrian speeds.

While most WiFi standards focus on the data capacity of a whole network shared by multiple users, 11ax will address and boost the actual data rate to each individual device. The IEEE is looking to increase that speed at least fourfold compared to current 802.11ac. Other 11ax objectives are to maintain or improve power efficiency and maintain backward compatibility and coexistence. Qualcomm’s offering includes the IPQ8074 system-on-chip (SoC) for access points and QCA6290 chip for client devices. It says the technology will deliver up to four times great-er capacity, and four times faster user throughput, together with longer battery life for de-vices. Qualcomm Technologies expects to sample the IPQ8074 and QCA6290 during the first half of 2017. Its 802.11ax solutions support 12 streams (eight in the 5 GHz band and four in 2.4 GHz); 8×8 Multiuser-MIMO; and 80 MHz channels. The 4x improvement Qualcomm is claiming was achieved using a 12×12 configuration, with MU-MIMO on uplink and downlink, and eight 80 MHz streams.

Other vendors driving 802.11ax:

Meanwhile, Quantenna’s first 11ax offering, the QSR10G-AX, is based on its QSR10G Wave 3 WiFi access point platform, a design which includes a Cavium chipset. This will support 12 streams, 8×8 in 5 GHz and 4×4 in 2.4 GHz. It will support downlink and uplink OFDMA to improve network efficiency in dense environments as well as higher uplink rates; and to support more devices at once by dedicating different sub-carriers for individual clients. The firm added a second product, the QSR5G-AX, with support for dual-band, dual con-current 4×4 + 4×4 operation, in January.
Huawei has been leading the 11ax standards effort and back in 2014 it demonstrated some of the technologies which it has submitted to that process, as part of its Smart Stadi-um solution. Included in its technology mix were MIMO-OFDA, dynamic spectrum alloca-tion, interference coordination and hybrid access techniques. The company said this com-bination, and 11ax in general, will “break the logjam of classical WiFi wideband radio and baseband processing to increase user data rates”. MIMO-OFDA combines large MIMO arrays with OFDM schemes, which divide sub-carriers into separate data streams, and send them out at right angles to one another, aiming to find a pathway with least interference in a congested zone. OFDA is based on existing OFDM schemes, but adds a multiple access component, so that subsets are assigned within the subcarrier frequencies to create a bigger pipe for each individual device.

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.


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