Broadcom, Quantenna Aim for Faster WiFi

The companies are developing silicon solutions that will speed up wireless networks to handle the onslaught of data growth and video.

Broadcom and Quantenna Communications are looking to speed up WiFi wireless networks that are under increasing pressure from the growing use of video, the skyrocketing numbers of connected mobile devices and the rapid increase in data moving across the networks.

Broadcom officials on April 15 announced the company's 5G WiFi XStream chip platform, which will include what they said is the industry's first six-stream 802.11ac multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) offering. The new platform is designed to double the performance of current WiFi devices for high-definition streaming and data, and has twice the bandwidth of existing 802.11ac routers and gateways, they said.

"With the booming Internet of things ecosystem and demand to wirelessly stream simultaneous HD content on smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, home networks today need a premium performance router that recognizes individual bandwidth requirements for an optimal experience," Rahul Patel, vice president and general manager of wireless connectivity combos for Broadcom, said in a statement.

The company's 5G WiFi XStream platform—which is currently sampling and will be in production later this quarter—will offer WiFi data rates up to 3.2 Gigabits per second, officials said. The platform will include Broadcom's Intelligent Quality of Service (IQoS) software, which will be able to identify incoming network traffic and allocate the bandwidth accordingly, giving bandwidth-needy applications like YouTube and Netflix the highest priority over such applications as file downloads. In addition, the company's SmartConnect software will make sure that 802.11ac devices are not forced to share airtime with slower WiFi devices, which will help double the performance of all devices on the network, officials said.

The 5G WiFi XStream platform includes six 802.11ac streams and three 802.11n streams, a five-core "Penta Core" CPU that features two 5GHz radios and one 2.4GHz radio, and automatic separation of 802.11n and 802.11ac WiFi devices into separate frequencies.

The day before Broadcom's announcement, Quantenna officials said the company is creating a 10G WiFi chipset for access points in enterprises, the home and public spaces. The company, which already offers router chips that can hit 1.7 Gb/s in what the company calls 4x4 configurations, said the new chips will ramp that up to 10 Gb/s in an 8x8 configuration and will support all MU-MIMO (multi-user MIMO) devices.

The MU-MIMO standard allows for data transmission to multiple devices as the same time. According to Quantenna officials, the term Massive MIMO refers to radios that leverage arrays of many antennas to increase capacity via MU-MIMO processing.

"The demand for reliable, high-performance WiFi will only increase," Quantenna CEO Sam Heidari said in a statement. "The number of WiFi-enabled devices in the home is growing faster than anyone predicted. Outdoor applications like carrier WiFi, mobile offload and broadband delivery are quickly emerging. WiFi has to keep up. That’s where 10G WiFi comes in. WiFi is no longer a convenience. People expect it to 'just work' even with demanding applications like HD video streaming."

The first of the 10G WiFi chipsets will be available in 2015, the company said.

The announcements by Broadcom and Quantenna come less than two weeks after Qualcomm officials said April 3 the company's Qualcomm Atheros subsidiary is expanding its MU-MIMO silicon solutions for networking products, mobile devices—including smartphones and tablets—PCs and consumer electronics.

The company's three- and four-stream QCA9980 and QCA9982 solutions are aimed at routers and gateways while the QCA9990 and QCA9992 are designed for enterprise access points. These chips will start sampling in the second quarter.