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
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sales Director of INIT on Plug & Play Switch Devices

9|19|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


INIT Italy uses both the Huawei S5700 and S7700 series switches for the campus LAN environment. Sales Director Andrea Curti says their company chose these Huawei devices over others because of their performance, flexible scalability and plug-and-play features.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Arabia Upgrades Vocational Training System

9|19|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has 100,000 students, 150 government-owned institutions and oversees 1000 private institutes. The CIO of TVTC explains that Huawei devices have allowed them to manage multiple datacenters using just one software program, scientifically tracking the progress of students and teachers, saving them millions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Media Solutions Are Here to Stay

9|19|14   |   4:35   |   (0) comments


The current media revolution requires rapid upgrades in technology. New formats (HD, 3D, 4K etc.) and the subsequent explosion of file sizes demand sophisticated network and storage architecture. Social media and the multiple distribution channels require a robust asset management system. Gartner analyst Venecia Liu speaks about the current technological trends in ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Microgenesis on Huawei's Switches

9|19|14   |   3:57   |   (0) comments


Microgenesis is a solutions and system integrator company in the Philippines whose areas of expertise include data centers, networking and security products. In this video, Executive Director Jeffrey Choa talks to us about his customers needs and they benefit from using Huawei switches.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Network Solutions Help the Philippines Jump Ahead

9|17|14   |   2:59   |   (0) comments


In the past, the Philippines has under-invested in technology. Now, the CEO of Softshell talks about how Huawei products help the Philippines jump ahead as the economy improves.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
VCS Observation for Safer Cities in the Netherlands

9|17|14   |   5:20   |   (0) comments


Holland's VCS Observation has been operating for 22 years. Its main goal is to get cities safer. CEO Wim van Deijzen tells us some of the challenges his company faces and how Huawei is helping to overcome these challenges.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
A Conversation With Serbia's Ministry of Interior

9|17|14   |   4:38   |   (0) comments


At HCC 2014, the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia talks to us about his projects and corporation with Huawei. Solutions like Safe City and E-Government and services like cloud computing are just some of the areas his department is interested in.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
IHS Analyst Discusses eLTE at CCW 2014

9|10|14   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Thomas Lynch, associate director of critical communications at IHS Technology, talks about broadband in critical communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
TCAA on Huawei eLTE: A Broadband Solution for Mission-Critical Communications

9|10|14   |   2:29   |   (0) comments


At CCW2014 in Singapore, the TCCA's Phil Kidner talks about the importance of broadband data for critical communications.
LRTV Custom TV
Spotlight on Cisco: SDN for Optical Networks

9|8|14   |   9:27   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Greg Nehib talks OpenFlow and more on the 'Software-Defined Networking for Optical Networks' panel at the Big Telecom Event in June 2014.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Evolved Programmable Network (EPN)

9|8|14   |   4:05   |   (0) comments


A look at the various demos Cisco showed at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event highlighting Cisco's EPN innovation and how SDN and NFV technologies are enabling a variety of new services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Future of Ultra-Broadband, With Kevin Kelly (UBBF2014)

9|5|14   |   1:13   |   (1) comment


If you think the technological changes we've seen up to now are astounding, just wait until you see what the future has in store. Discuss upcoming breakthroughs with Kevin Kelly, Founding Executive Editor of Wired Magazine, at the Huawei Ultra-Broadband Forum on September 24.
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
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
A survey conducted by Vasona Networks suggests that 72% of mobile users expect good performance all the time, and they'll blame the network operator when it's not up to par.
Today's Cartoon
Vacation Special Caption Competition Click Here
Latest Comment
Hot Topics
Photos: Qualcomm Takes Over San Francisco
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/19/2014
Exclusive: Microwave Maven Exalt Is Cooked
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/22/2014
NFV & The Data Center: Top 10 Takeaways
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/18/2014
EMC Mulls Merger With HP or Dell – Reports
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 9/22/2014
Pics: LR's Women in Telecom Breakfast
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/16/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed