Carrier WiFi

Cisco Invests in Wilocity to Speed Enterprise WiFi

Cisco has taken a minority investment in the Israeli chipmaker Wilocity with the goal of speeding up enterprise adoption of the latest and fastest generation of WiFi, 802.11ad.

The Wi-Fi Alliance and others have been working on certifying devices for the latest generation of WiFi for more than two years, but the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) just finalized 802.11ad, also called WiGig, in January. (See: Wi-Fi Alliance, WiGig Align to Make WiFi Super Fast.)

Since then, Wilocity has emerged as a leader in the space in developing 60GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets that can run on tri-band WiFi. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is the other big name working on it, but Wilocity already has products up and running and is expanding its ecosystem with partnerships like this one with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and a deal with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) on the client side.

Bob Friday, CTO for the enterprise networking group at Cisco, wouldn't reveal the size of his company's investment in Wilocity, but he did say they plan to increase the performance and capacity of wireless networking in the enterprise to enable new video and collaboration services.

From a technology perspective, Wilocity's chips support tri-band WiFi running 802.11ad in the 60GHz spectrum band alongside 802.11a/n/ac in the 5GHz band and 802.11b/g/n in the 2.2GHz band. The reason all three are required is that 802.11ad brings the speed but is short-range WiFi, so it can't penetrate most walls and people. Its chips can automatically switch from the 60GHz channel to the next best available one when needed. The vendor is promising data rates of up to 5 Gbit/s, or up to 10 times faster than mainstream WiFi. (See: FCC to Enable Fast Streaming With New 60GHz Rules.)

Since 802.11ad was ratified this year, Wilocity already has chipsets in several ultrabooks and devices, including the Dell 6430u Ultrabook, D500 Wireless Dock, and Precision M4800 and M6800 Workstations. CEO Tal Tamir says we should expect mobile-phone grade chipsets next year, with smartphones launching by the end of 2014.

The zippier WiFi is also attracting interest in the connected home, but Tamir says there's a greater sense of urgency in the enterprise. Here, the networks are dense, companies are moving to cloud storage, and a certain level of performance is required. (See: Mobile Video Goes on the Road and 60GHz Can Too Run a Home Network.)

The enterprise is an important strategic market for Cisco, too, and it's working hard to get multimode small cells out the door for its business customers. Wilocity and Cisco are working on 802.11ad proof-of-concept trials for WiFi-enabled cellular small cells. Friday says we should expect commercial small cells from Cisco next year. He didn't confirm whether the 802.11ad small cells would support 3G and 4G LTE, but he did say ".11ad and LTE will start to merge next year." (See: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

MordyK 11/6/2013 | 12:36:48 PM
Re: 802.11ad Even if handoffs were spot on you would literally have to site the small cell perfectly to address a particular concern and hope that the dynamic doesnt change,

If there's a customer understanding about the various range differences, you can also add something like Witricity in and have short range wireless charging.
DanJones 11/6/2013 | 12:25:48 PM
Re: 802.11ad Oooh, the handoffs are going to be fun, fun, fun.
Sarah Thomas 11/6/2013 | 12:24:47 PM
Re: 802.11ad I guess it comes down to how seamless the handoff would be. Ideally, you wouldn't notice the spotiness, just the upshot in speed when it is available. It is definitely being discussed in the connected home as well. Wilocity has done trials there.
MordyK 11/6/2013 | 12:06:58 PM
Re: 802.11ad right but the .ad functionality will be extremely spotty. To me it makes more sense in a femtocell embedded in a set top box similar to FREE, so that you get the benefits in the living room and cut cords but computers stay on the existing ones with more general coverage.
Sarah Thomas 11/6/2013 | 12:03:13 PM
Re: 802.11ad I think Wilocity gets around that with its tri-band chipsets though. 
MordyK 11/6/2013 | 11:58:46 AM
Re: 802.11ad Sarah, The main problem I see for 802.11ad in small cells is that the small cell coverage area is far larger than a single LoS room, so you will effectivelly have an extremely spotty network.
Sarah Thomas 11/6/2013 | 10:43:09 AM
802.11ad This standard has been a long-time coming. The WiFi Alliance started working on it back in 2010. The biggest limitation was the line-of-sight requirements, but it seems like Wilocity has a good solution for that. Wonder what we'll see first, smartphones or small cells? Seems like small cells are more needed, but I'm skeptical about the aggressive timeline for multimode.
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