& cplSiteName &

Qualcomm Advances WiFi With MIMO

Sarah Thomas

Qualcomm is the latest company to advance WiFi networking capabilities by announcing its support for the emerging 802.11ac standard with multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) antenna technology in a range of chips for routers/gateways and end-user devices.

Commonly referred to as "Gigabit WiFi," 802.11ac is the latest WiFi standard, approved in January this year, and operates in the 5GHz frequency band. It has been developed to enable faster connections than the 802.11n standard, which is already widely deployed, and is seen as a way to deliver HD video over wireless connections.

With its 802.11ac portfolio, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) is borrowing a technology from the cellular world.

MIMO -- or multiple-input multiple-output -- involves the use of multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data simultaneously, thus accommodating more users at the same time. The introduction of MU-MIMO into the WiFi domain, which currently sends and receives data to only one device at a time, will enable access points (public, enterprise, or even in the home) handle more devices at once, doubling or even tripling their capacity, and optimizing the wireless connections. (See Holy HetNets! It’s Super Macros & Massive MIMO and Ready or Not, Here Comes 5G.)

According to Todd Antes, VP of product management at Qualcomm's Atheros division, typical access points have to subdivide their capacity for each new device that wants to connect. With MU-MIMO, access points can compute and form up to three separate beams talking to three clients at the same time, so delivering much greater capacity to end users.

"For service providers that have WiFi hotspots in public areas or enterprises that have WiFi in-building, this is very compelling," Antes says of MU-MIMO. "This is the most important feature in [802.11]ac for them. It allows them, in their network with an existing set of frequencies, to serve more clients or serve the same number with better throughput, and it leverages the assets they have in a better way, so they can make more money."

MU-MIMO is one of several features from release 2 of the Wi-Fi Alliance 's standard specifications for 802.11ac. Qualcomm Atheros division has been testing versions of the MU-MIMO spec for seven years, Antes says, but it wanted to be able to officially announce it with an ecosystem of partners. (See Wi-Fi Alliance Begins Certifying 802.11ac.)

That's because to take advantage of MU-MIMO, it has to be supported by devices and access points. For the most part, that will require new devices coming to market, but Antes says Qualcomm has been including MU-MIMO support in its devices with the Snapdragon 805 and 801 mobile processor, so that it will be able to turn it on with a software upgrade when needed.

At launch, Qualcomm's ecosystem includes chips for networking products (routers, gateways, and enterprise access points), smartphones, tablets, computers, consumer electronics, TVs, set-top boxes, and automobiles. Most will begin sampling in the second quarter. The chipmaker has also developed its own algorithms to manage the simultaneous connections, enabling WiFi networks to adapt on the fly to channel conditions, device movement, and application requirements.

This is only one of several WiFi advancements that have resulted in service providers taking the use of unlicensed spectrum a lot more seriously. Hotspot 2.0 developments are set to improve authentication on WiFi networks -- an important consideration if users are to be able to connect quickly and easily -- while, for its part, Qualcomm is also working on a technology to improve handoff, CnE, as well as a new innovation, LTE-U, that bonds WiFi with LTE for extra capacity bursts. (See Qualcomm Chips Away at Carrier Wi-Fi, Qualcomm Unveils WiFi Chip for Home Appliances, Jury Still Out on LTE-Unlicensed, Boingo Expands Hotspot 2.0 Trial to 23 Airports , and Hotspot 2.0 Makes Slow & Steady Progress.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/4/2014 | 9:20:15 AM
Re: Question
That is a good question, Colin. The way I understand it is they have somewhat different use cases. They both support high data rates, but 802.11ac was an evolution of the standard that will improve hotspot functionality (using beamforming to support larger areas), while 802.11ad was a completely new standard designed for ad-hoc short-range connectivity. But there could be compatibility issues and they do require new devices. I think that's one reason Qualcomm wanted to wait until it had a large ecosystem to announce with its launch, to show the support ac is getting and assure people it wouldn't fragment the industry more.
User Rank: Light Beer
4/4/2014 | 8:37:12 AM
Re: Question
Good question Colin, especially as 802.11ad standards were released a year earlier than 802.11ac
User Rank: Light Beer
4/4/2014 | 2:07:32 AM
Hello Sarah, How do you think 802.11ad will affect the introduction of 802.11ac? Do you see businesses and consumers backing off both technologies until there is a clear winner. Could we have to wait sometime for the clear winner? Thank You. Colin
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
4/3/2014 | 12:46:08 PM
Qualcomm isn't the only chipmaker working on MU-MIMO. Quanntena, for one, already has a chip deployed in an Asus router. It's not clear whether devices from different vendors will interoperate (ie a Qualcomm-powered phone and that Asus router), but that's something the WiFi Alliance is working on testing. 
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
WiCipedia: Grace Hopper Promotes Diversity, Girl Scouts Code & How to Thrive
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 10/21/2016
US Issues Total Flight Ban on Samsung Note 7
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/15/2016
Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/17/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.