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Qualcomm Advances WiGig With Wilocity Buy

Sarah Thomas

Qualcomm is integrating super-fast 60GHz WiFi into its Snapdragon 810 chipsets, a move that it says will advance the entire WiFi ecosystem now that its acquisition of multi-gigabit wireless leader Wilocity is complete.

Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) never formally announced its intent to acquire the Israeli startup, but news of the buy, rumored to be valued at $300 million, slipped out in May. Less than two months later the chip giant has absorbed its long-time partner. (See Eurobites: Qualcomm Eyes WiFi Chip Specialist.)

More important than the acquisition, the companies say, is the step they are taking towards bringing super-fast multi-gigabyte WiFi, or WiGig, access to the world of mobility, computing, and networking. Qualcomm will integrate Wilocity's support of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.11ad standard for 60GHz wireless WiGig chipsets with its Qualcomm Atheros WiFi platform. (See Wi-Fi Alliance, WiGig Align to Make WiFi Super Fast.)

The tri-band reference design based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 will enable 4K video streaming from the phone to the TV in the home, peer-to-peer content sharing, networking, wireless docking, and instantaneous cloud access. (See Qualcomm Unveils New LTE-Advanced Chips.)

"This is exciting news for the technology itself, regardless of the company," says Tal Tamir, former CEO of Wilocity and now VP of product management with Qualcomm Atheros.

That may be true, but Tamir's company is the one that made it happen. Despite its relatively small size, Wilocity has been leading the market in 60GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets that can run on tri-band WiFi, beating rivals like Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) to the punch with commercial products from Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) and others.

Tamir landed himself on Light Reading's Top 10 Carrier WiFi Movers & Shakers list last year for pioneering the market and snagging an investment for Wilocity from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See Top 10 Carrier WiFi Movers & Shakers and Cisco Invests in Wilocity to Speed Enterprise WiFi.)

Companies like Cisco, Dell, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and others plan to use the new integrated chipsets first in the connected home and enterprise. Cormac Conroy, Qualcomm's VP of product management and engineering, says to expect the Snapdragon 810 platform to start shipping in smartphones and tablets in the second half of the year. He also calls small cells from companies like Cisco a "natural fit," but those are further down the pipeline.

Sixty Gigahertz is an in-area technology, which means that, while it doesn't necessarily require line-of-sight, it cannot penetrate walls. It's ideal for open spaces of any size but can't cover a whole home on its own. Qualcomm says its tri-band WiFi chips will integrate the multi-gigabit performance of 802.11ad operating in the 60GHz spectrum band with 802.11ac in the 5GHz band and 802.11b/g/n in the 2.4GHz band with handoff in between them to ensure it works everywhere.

"We think this is an important step in our overall vision and mission to deliver high-speed wireless connectivity, mobile computing, and networking," Conroy says. "This announcement is not just 'Qualcomm acquires a company.' The message is Qualcomm and a number of leading partners think 60GHz will be a very important technology across multiple use cases."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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