Qualcomm Looks to Tame Wireless Zoo

SAN DIEGO -- Qualcomm is looking at a zoo of proliferating wireless applications, and it wants to be the lion tamer.

The industry faces an explosion of new wireless applications with varying radio needs, including mobile video, connected cars, the smart home and other Internet of Things applications. Some applications require high-power, high-bandwidth connections, others require intense power conservation. In some applications, latency doesn't matter; in others latency is critical.

To meet these needs, Qualcomm and other vendors are delivering an array of new LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth technologies, leading up to the emergence of standardized 5G in 2020 as a foundation for New IP networks.

Qualcomm is working to fit it all into a simple, manageable architecture. Executives briefed technology editors and analysts on those plans at the company headquarters Tuesday.

At one extreme, some IoT devices, such as smart water meters, might wake up once per day and send a short burst of data. These devices have minimal bandwidth and latency requirements, but are demanding on power conservation -- they need to go years on a single battery, Durga Malladi, VP engineering, Qualcomm Research, said.

Engineering VP
Durga Malladi, Qualcomm
Durga Malladi, Qualcomm

At the other extreme, remote surgical procedures and drone command-and-control will require millisecond latencies -- significantly lower than today -- and high reliability, Malladi said.

In another use case, smartphones present increasing challenges. In most cases, consumers demand higher downlink than uplink speeds -- except for in some public events, such as the upcoming Super Bowl, when the reverse is true as customers upload their video and photos to social media, Malladi said.

Qualcomm is looking to deploy emerging technologies to meet these varied needs.

"Connectivity needs to be ubiquitous and seamless," Rahul Patel, Qualcomm senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, said. Devices need to select links based on applications, spectrum and context, and "deliver a user experience that makes sense to the average consumer."

SVP/GM Connectivity
Rahul Patel, Qualcomm
Rahul Patel, Qualcomm

Bluetooth and WiFi are evolving to meet emerging needs, Patel said.

  • BLE/15.4 provides low power and short range, with battery life in days and months.
  • 80.11ad/ay is extremely high capacity and high density -- operating in unlicensed spectrum up to 60GHz, with multi-gigabit wireless performance, providing connectivity better than USB cables. It's good for in-room connectivity, with full-day battery life.
  • 11ac MU MIMO/11ax permits a foundation for capacity and coverage spanning the whole house, running a day on a charge.
  • And 11ah permits ultra-low power and extended coverage, with campus-wide connectivity and battery life running months and years, Patel said.

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Another emerging WiFi technology, WiFi SON, is designed to marry the benefits of WiFi with cellular class user experience and enterprise-class network management, Patel said. WiFi SON is "self-configuring, self-managing, self-healing, and self-defending," he said. "It takes the complexity of managing the WiFi network out of my Mom's hands."

Enter LTE
Emerging LTE standards are designed to complement WiFi and Bluetooth to meet the new needs.

LTE-U brings LTE cellular technology into unlicensed spectrum. "Cellular systems have been designed to thrive on interference. Spectrum has always been scarce," Malladi said.

Next page: Reducing complexity

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