Broadcom Designs New SoCs for 802.11ac Wave 2 Devices

With trends like IT mobility, BYOD and video putting increased pressure on wireless networks, OEMs and businesses are turning to 5G WiFi.


Broadcom officials are sampling new 802.11ac Wave 2 chips as demand for better wireless connections continue to rise.

The company this week announced a new lineup of 5G WiFi Wave 2 chips for enterprise wireless access points (APs) that officials said will touch a broad range of segments of the enterprise and cloud wireless LAN (WLAN) markets, including education, hospitality, health care and campus networks.

Broadcom officials said the new chips will improve the quality, reliability and capacity of WiFi networks, which are increasingly under pressure with the rapid rise in the number and diversity of mobile devices being used, the increase in traffic—particularly video traffic—over wireless networks, and the growth of such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), the cloud and the Internet of things (IoT).

The company is one of several vendors, such as Qualcomm, that are looking to supply silicon products to the new solutions hitting the market for the 5G 802.11ac wireless protocol. An array of vendors—such as Cisco Systems and Ruckus Networks—are hitting the market with both 802.11ac Wave 1- and Wave 2-compliant products.

The market for 802.11ac-compliant product—from APs to routers—is growing rapidly. According to a report last month from ABI Research analysts, by the end of the year, about 71 million consumer WiFi devices based on the newer 802.11ac standards will ship worldwide. The overall global consumer WiFi device market grew by 5 percent last year, the firm found.

The demand for 802.11ac-based devices is not surprising. The WiFi standard, ratified by the IEEE at the end of 2013, offers significant speed improvements (up to three times better) and bandwidth increases over its predecessor, 802.11n. The result is that more devices can be connected to the network without impacting the network performance too much. In addition, 802.11ac works in two bands—the 2.4GHz band, where WiFi previously was limited to, and in the 5GHz band. Industry observers expect traffic on the 5GHz band will be used for high-performance applications, like video.

Wave 2 will bring even greater speeds and wireless ranges, enabling better performance over Wave 1.

Broadcom's goal is to help push the transition to 802.11ac to all markets, according to Ed Redmond, vice president and general manager for compute and connectivity at the company. The new chips—which include one that delivers a CPU and two radios in a single device—are designed to do just that, according to officials.

The new chips include the BCM43465 and BCM43525 for high-performance access points. The BCM43465 can support 2.2G bps and four concurrent multi-user, multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) devices, which increases the number of devices that can run on the network at once. The combination of MU-MIMO and 160MHz will enable devices to fully use the bandwidth available, which will result in more than two times the performance, Broadcom officials said.

In addition, the company is touting its 1024-QAM modulation technology—dubbed NitroQAM—which offers a 25 percent throughput improvement over 802.11ac's 256-QAM, as well as the chips' Advanced Spectrum Capture Engine—enabled by the chips' digital signal processing (DSP) architecture—which enables it to better find and reduce non-WiFi interference.

The expanded chip lineup also includes the BCM47452, a low-power system-on-a-chip (SoC) that also is small and affordable, which officials said will help accelerate the enterprise market's transition to 802.11ac. The BCM47452 integrates two radios, power amplifiers, and as a CPU on a single device. The SoCs' Real Simultaneous Dual-Band capability means device makers' products can support 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio operation at the same time in the same device.