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Qualcomm's .11n Solution

5:50 PM -- Just in case there's any lingering doubt that 802.11n is going to be of mammoth importance, I got it straight from the mammoth's mouth.

A couple of days ago, I visited with much of the senior team at Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s R&D facility in Concord, Mass. I'll bet you didn't know the company had a place in my neck of the woods, San Diego being such a great place and all.

But Massachusetts remains a hotbed of wireless activity, and, as usual, I digress.

I'd had my suspicions about Qualcomm and .11n when I chaired a symposium at MIT a few months ago on the subject of residential media distribution.

Qualcomm sent Peter Lojko, whom I'd previously met when he was heading up the wireless gateway startup Watercove, and he passionately made the case for .11n in the home. I quickly accepted Peter's invitation to visit the team in Concord when he called a few weeks ago.

To cut to the chase, Qualcomm is developing a 4x4 (four transmitters and four receivers) MIMO chipset. I saw a demo of the FPGA-based prototype in an HDTV application. As one might expect with a technology at the high end of .11n, the picture quality was flawless and the range (through a number of walls) excellent. Even in 4x2 mode, no video artifacts were noticeable. In data applications, they're talking greater than 100 Mbit/s in a 20MHz channel, as opposed to the 40 that most consumer products use today.

But the really interesting part (aside from a number of low-level technical details that I may return to in a future posting) is that Qualcomm, the CDMA/cellular company is serious about producing a WLAN MIMO chipset. My guess is that they'll go after the residential video market, sure, but also the embedded .11n market, albeit in this case likely not with a 4x4 product (too expensive and too much power consumption). As I've mentioned before, the value of cellular/.11n convergence is also clear, and keep in mind that Qualcomm also owns Flarion Technologies Inc. , which is going after mobile WiMax and could also benefit from a convergence with .11n.

—Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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