Light Reading
New 802.11ac WiFi chips will include multi-user MIMO to support more devices, faster speeds, and more efficient use of unlicensed spectrum.

Qualcomm Advances WiFi With MIMO

Sarah Reedy
4/3/2014
50%
50%

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
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
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.
hlim431
50%
50%
hlim431,
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
colin19216811
50%
50%
colin19216811,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/4/2014 | 2:07:32 AM
Question
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
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
4/3/2014 | 12:46:08 PM
interoperability
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. 
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Building the Case for NFV

12|19|14   |   02:14   |   (0) comments


At the 2020 Vision Executive Summit, James Feger, VP, Network Strategy & Development at CenturyLink, talks about how the US operator is approaching virtual network functions from an operational and business case perspective.
LRTV Interviews
Liberty Global Sees Business Goldmine

12|18|14   |     |   (0) comments


Steen Sorensen, VP of business services for Liberty Global, explains where the giant international MSO sees growth potential.
LRTV Documentaries
EE: The Road to 5G

12|16|14   |   16:02   |   (1) comment


Andy Sutton, the principal network architect at UK mobile operator EE, explains how his company is using Wembley stadium as a wireless test bed and how that's helping EE to plan the evolution to 5G.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Highlights of Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014

12|16|14   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei hosted its inaugural NFV Open Cloud Forum during the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014 in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Forum brought together technology thought leaders, senior executives and telecom professionals from global carriers, industry associations, as well as other partner companies in the ecosystem, to exchange views on and collectively explore how ...
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing Operators' Digital Vision

12|16|14   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Leveraging technology is fundamental to digital transformation but understanding customers and serving them really well is at the heart of digital businesses. TM Forum lists the following as the strategic pillars of the digital business: business agility and rapid innovation, operational agility and effectiveness, IT and data centricity, plus customer centricity. ...
LRTV Documentaries
US Cellular Injects Analytics Into LTE

12|16|14   |   2:57   |   (1) comment


US Cellular's Mario Vela explains how the operator uses analytics for network planning and what comes next as the carrier looks to eke more value out of its metrics.
LRTV Interviews
How Cox Biz Plans to Keep Growing

12|15|14   |     |   (2) comments


Steve Rowley, SVP of Cox Business, details how the third-biggest US MSO intends to boost its revenues to $2 billion and beyond over the rest of the decade
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Bill Zhang, Director of SoftCOM Product Management, Huawei

12|15|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Bill Zhang elaborated on Huawei's open philosophy in NFV solution development and network architecture design at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Event Highlights: Huawei at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014

12|15|14   |   3:43   |   (0) comments


Huawei joined the 2014 SDN & OpenFlow Congress as one of the key sponsors and contributors. At the event, Huawei reinforced the openness and flexibility of its network infrastructure strategies, and provided updates on its SDN and NVF innovations. Through participations at the exhibitions, forums and speeches, Huawei encouraged the industry to "think bigger and ...
LRTV Interviews
How Cable Biz Services Hit $10B Mark

12|12|14   |     |   (1) comment


Cable operators reached $10 billion in annual business services revenues by delving deeper into their vertical markets and expanding beyond the smallest firms.
LRTV Documentaries
Mediacom Aims to Test Connected Tractors

12|11|14   |   05:07   |   (3) comments


Cable business service provider is taking its services to the 'agribusiness' sector in partnership with farm equipment specialist John Deere and is getting involved in Gigabit Cities developments.
LRTV Interviews
TWC Business Looks Beyond $3B

12|10|14   |     |   (0) comments


TWC Business Services chief Phil Meeks explains how his unit has reached $3 billion in annual revenues and what its plans are for next year.
Upcoming Live Events
February 10, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Hot Topics
T-Mobile, BlackBerry Flirt With Reuniting
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 12/17/2014
1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 12/17/2014
Comcast Launches 4K Streaming Service
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 12/18/2014
US Carriers, You're Going to Cuba!
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 12/18/2014
T-Mobile Lights Up 27 Wideband LTE Cities
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 12/15/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive