Two WiFi developments last week highlighted an emerging trend for vendors to accept that putting a WiFi chip directly into streaming devices can make a wired connection unnecessary, potentially transforming the economics of this market.
With the huge IBC broadcasting show around the corner, we can expect WiFi announcements galore, including moves from smart TV and connected device makers which will swell the growing consensus that the future is about software-driven WiFi, not just putting clever chips from the likes of AirTies, Celeno and Qualcomm into devices. Only then can features such as client steering and MU-MIMO reach their full potential in supporting the connected home and delivering new viewing formats without hiccups.
The latest iteration of the 802.11ac standards, especially Wave 2 Multiuser MIMO (MU-MIMO), is at the heart of this transition.
The first announcement came from Israeli WiFi chip firm Celeno Communications, which has won a contract with German electronics manufacturer Loewe Technologies to provide silicon and software for smart home entertainment devices. Loewe makes a range of high end TV sets, surround sound systems, and accessories including 3D glasses and remote controls.
Specifics about the type of devices were omitted, but the release said the deal will enable Loewe to provide uninterrupted HD audio and visual experiences for users, delivering gigabit speeds even in crowded environments.
Celeno is supplying its CL2400 WiFi silicon with OptimizAIR WiFi virtualization software, plus the ControlAIR technology, which Celeno says increases throughput using multiple access points (APs), by adding dynamic Radio Resource Management (RRM), a key radio functionality element, and what it calls smart cluster connectivity. The latter drives the decision making for band steering and client steering – software which optimizes the algorithms that dynamically select which antennas should be used when there is more than one AP.
This is an alternative approach to WiFi mesh software, pioneered by Celeno’s main competitor AirTies. Mesh is crucial to a home environment, particularly in MDUs (multi-dwelling units), because if a home does not have a mesh system, there is no way for the gateway to communicate its condition to another AP, or for one AP to collect channel state information for other devices and deliver that to the next AP.
Loewe CTO Michael Pedersen said, “Loewe is above all committed to innovation and quality, and choosing Celeno was another confirmation of this commitment. Our customers are buying a top tier product and they expect that it will work great anywhere in their home on every account, from audio and visual quality, to a seamless streaming experience across multiple devices and Celeno makes this possible.”
Celeno also claims to have a tier 1 account coming in the US, while AirTies has recently secured two major chip licensing deals with Broadcom and Quantenna.
Next up was Samsung, which has dropped a WiFi chip from Qualcomm Technologies into its new line of QLED TV sets. The QCA9379 combo chip supports dual-stream 802.11ac WiFi with the MU-MIMO specification – providing smoother viewing experiences for bandwidth-heavy content such as 4K UHD video.
It says the inclusion of Bluetooth on the chip means doing away with the limitations of legacy infrared remote controls as well as supporting advanced functionality such as voice control – as the QCA9379 interoperates with Qualcomm’s CSR102x Bluetooth Smart SoC. As well as TV remotes, Qualcomm adds that the CSR102x prolongs the life of other battery powered entertainment and gaming devices.
Qualcomm Technologies VP of product management Joseph Bousaba said: “Our QCA9379 solution was designed to support interactive and engaging media experiences in smart TV products, streaming devices, and set top/gaming boxes, thanks to the superior connectivity it delivers.”