Light Reading

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        ADD A COMMENT
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (5) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (0) comments


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
LRTV Documentaries
OPNFV Director Opens Up on Women in Tech

6|25|15   |   3:25   |   (0) comments


Heather Kirksey, the director of the OPNFV, gets real about the gender disparity in open source and standards and discusses how we can change both the conversation and the gender dynamics.
LRTV Custom TV
Symantec's Service Provider Security Strategy

6|24|15   |   7:06   |   (0) comments


Didi Dayton explores Symantec's emerging enterprise security strategies for service providers. Highlights include 'killing the password,' self-defense, advanced analytics and adaptive response in a service provider architecture.
Between the CEOs
Debating Network Evolution With Cisco's Cedrik Neike

6|23|15   |   12:54   |   (2) comments


Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
LRTV Documentaries
Vodafone: What's Good for Moms Is Good for Business

6|23|15   |   3:04   |   (3) comments


Megan Doberneck, the general counsel for Vodafone Americas, discusses her company's progressive maternity policy, explains why promoting women in tech is good business and offers some some good advice for any women in the industry.
LRTV Interviews
NFV: Ready for Prime Time

6|23|15   |   05:09   |   (1) comment


At BTE 2015, Vip mobile CTO Dejan Kastelic talks about how NFV is ready for the real world and how Telekom Austria is introducing centralized resources for its group operations.
LRTV Documentaries
Tykes Talk Tech

6|22|15   |   02:30   |   (9) comments


What does optical fiber look like? When will 5G arrive? What's the WiFi password at Ikea? Light Reading sat down with three 8-year-olds to answer some of the communications industry's most burning questions...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partners With TDC for World's First Early DOCSIS 3.1 Field Test

6|22|15   |   3:06   |   (0) comments


In a move to enhance user experience, Denmark's TDC aims to become an early adopter of DOCSIS 3.1. In partnership with Huawei, TDC recently ran the world's first field tests on its coax network that reached speeds nearing 1 Gbit/s.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Staying Productive With My Office-in-a-Bag
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 6/25/2015
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
What's in Your Office-in-a-Bag?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 6/26/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones