Light Reading
Leading into CES, Marvell boosts 802.11n throughput while competitors yawn

Marvell Pours a WiFi Triple Shot

Craig Matsumoto
LR Mobile News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
1/2/2008
50%
50%

Firing a pre-CES warning shot, Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) announced today a supposed triple-strength 802.11n chipset, a step that was inevitable but is drawing some skepticism from others.

Marvell is all excited because the TopDog 11n-450, as it's called, boasts three transmitters and three receivers and a 3x3 antenna array, as opposed to the 2x2 arrangment found on many competing chips.

If those three radios deliver three separate WiFi streams, that's a 50 percent advantage, giving Marvell a claimed 450-Mbit/s throughput versus the 300 Mbit/s on certain other chips. The bigger throughput requires having Marvell's chip on each end of a connection.

Thus continues a war of escalation created by the way 802.11n works. The standard uses multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antenna schemes to get its higher throughput and better range. Chip makers are working their way up to 3x3 formations, and the standard allows for a 4x4 as well, so Marvell's announcement is an understandable step.

Of course, the 450-Mbit/s throughput is just theoretical. Plenty of factors would shave the real figure downward: the overhead associated with protocols like TCP, the quirks of the physical surroundings, or the difficulty of processing high-definition video.

It's the first product to claim the 450-Mbit/s mark, but it's not the first 3x3 chipset. Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) made that claim two years ago. The difference is that Atheros chooses to work with only two data streams.

"We wanted that extra antenna for redundancy," says Bill McFarland, Atheros's chief technology officer. "We did a lot of study on this, and the statistics are really not in your favor doing three streams in a 3x3 situation."

That's because wireless transmissions can be a crap shoot. In fact, McFarland likens it to rolling dice. Given three dice, it's easier to roll two sixes than to try to roll three -- you've got a backup in case one fails -- as any good Risk geek can testify.

So, Atheros isn't interested in matching Marvell's 450-Mbit/s ante. Neither is Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), according to Mike Hurlston, vice president and general manager of that company's wireless LAN unit.

"Our view is that the most important thing to stimulate 802.11n demand is really cost. Where we've focused our energy is on bringing the cost down on a basic 802.11n offering," Hurlston says.

Rather than add transmission streams, Broadcom -- and Atheros -- have been more interested in boiling 802.11n down to a single chip. (See Broadcom Intros One-Chip 802.11n.)

Higher throughput could be of use in sending multimedia around the home -- one of the presumed drivers of future 802.11n demand. But Broadcom would rather revive the idea of using the 5 GHz spectrum of 802.11a.

"We're going to talk about that at CES. A number of our customers have introduced dual-band" products, Hurlston says.

In any case, more radios don't necessarily equate to higher bandwidth in real-world conditions.

"Just going to more streams and more radios doesn't necessarily help you get better worst-case performance, which is really what matters," says Steve Martin, vice president of engineering for systems vendor Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS)

There's some self-interest there, as Ruckus claims its directional antenna technology can make wireless LAN more reliable. (Ruckus uses Atheros chips, incidentally.) Still, multiple streams create complexity, as WiFi transmissions "get finicky the more streams you have," Martin says.

Martin doesn't see much play for a 3x3 chip in enterprise or carrier settings yet -- but retail could be another matter, and might be where Marvell's customers will point the product first. "Consumers will buy that stuff because there's a bigger number on the box," he contends.

Marvell didn't return a call requesting comment.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
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 Custom TV
Using Service Quality to Drive WiFi Monetization

10|22|14   |   6:51   |   (0) comments


Live from the SCTE conference: Heavy Reading's Alan Breznick explores the forces shaping the WiFi opportunity in an interview with CableLabs' Justin Colwell and Amdocs' Ken Roulier.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 2

10|21|14   |   8:51:00 AM   |   (0) comments


ARRIS CTO Network Solutions Tom Cloonan discusses why many if not most MSOs will continue with integrated CCAP, while addressing why some are also looking at two futuristic, distributed access architectures: Remote PHY and Remote CCAP.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 1

10|21|14   |   9:01   |   (0) comments


SCTE Sr. Director of Engineering Dean Stoneback discusses the pros and cons of distributed access architecture (DAA) and its various forms, which range from basic Remote PHY to full CMTS functionality in the node.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 2

10|21|14   |   3:58   |   (0) comments


ARRIS Senior Solution Architect Eli Baruch talks about how MSOs can enable public and community WiFi through 1) outdoor access points, 2) businesses seeking to offer WiFi to customers, and 3) residential WiFi gateway extensions.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 1

10|21|14   |   10:15   |   (0) comments


SCTE Director of Advanced Technologies Steve Harris discusses WiFi deployments, drivers, challenges and advances, including 802.11ac, carrier-grade WiFi, community WiFi, Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, WiFi-First and voice-over-WiFi.
LRTV Custom TV
Advantech Accelerates 100G Traffic Handling

10|17|14   |   7:56   |   (0) comments


Paul Stevens from Advantech explains why handling 100GbE needs a whole new platform design approach and how Advantech is addressing the needs of equipment providers and carriers to give them the flexibility and performance they will need for SDN and NFV deployment.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Holland's Imtech Traffic & Infra Discusses Huawei's ICT Solution and Services

10|16|14   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Dimitry Theebe is from the business unit at Imtech Traffic & Infra which delivers communications solutions for transportations. His partnershp with Huawei began about a years ago. In this video, Theebe speaks more about this partnership and what he hopes to accomplish with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Comprehensive Storage Solutions Vital for SVR

10|16|14   |   6:16   |   (0) comments


SVR Information Technology provides cloud services for academic and special sectors. With Huawei's support, SVR and Yildiz Technical University has established Turkey's largest and most advanced High Performance Computing system. CSO Ismail Cem Aslan talks about what he hopes Huawei's OceanStor storage system will bring for him.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mexico's Servitron's Impression of Huawei at CCW 2014

10|16|14   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Servitron is a network operator in Mexico that has been in the trunking industry for the past 20 years. Its COO, Ing. Ragnar Trillo O., explains at Critical Communications World 2014 that his company has been interested in the long-term evolution of LTE technology and its adoption for TETRA.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Better Dubai

10|16|14   |   2:06   |   (0) comments


Abdulla Ahmed Al Falasi is the director of commercial affairs, a telecommunications coordinator for the government of Dubai. Their areas of service span across multiple industries, including police, safety, shopping malls and more. In this video, Abdulla talks about his department's work with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Lights Up Malaysia Partner Maju Nusa

10|16|14   |   1:59   |   (0) comments


Malaysia's Maju Nusa is an enterprise partner to Huawei in networking, route switches and telco equipment. At this year's Critical Communications World in Singapore, CTO Pushpender Singh talks about what Huawei's eLTE solutions mean to his company and for Malaysia.
LRTV Custom TV
Evolving From HFC to FTTH Networks

10|15|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Todd McCrum delves into the future of cable's HFC plant, examining how DOCSIS 3.1 and advanced video compression will extend its life and how the IP video transition will usher in GPON and EPON over FTTH.
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Analysts Warn of Major NFV Gaps
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/22/2014
Is Health the Killer App for the IoT?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/22/2014
iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/17/2014
NYC Subway Wireless No Cure for Ebola Fears
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/16/2014
The Human Gain of the Smart Home
Robin Mersh, 10/20/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed