Hidden within the ramblings of Qualcomm’s press release rampage this week were some stirring movements in the WiFi space, as the silicon giant unveiled a series of Pro Platforms to propel next-generation WiFi 6 connectivity into the mainstream.
Prominent features of the new line of Networking Pro Series platforms include support for the WiFi 6 modulation 1024QAM which enables up to 38% higher raw throughput against WiFi 5, as well as Qualcomm’s multi-use scheduling algorithms which the company claims represent a distinctly differentiated form of traffic management for WiFi.
Building on two technologies fundamental to WiFi 6 – MU-MIMO and OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) – Qualcomm says networks built on the new roster of platforms (of which there are four) can set a new benchmark for prioritizing network access for large numbers of connected clients.
It means Qualcomm Networking Pro Series Platforms support MU-MIMO in the uplink and downlink across all bands, ensuring up to 12 independent chains of WiFi to simultaneously connect MU-MIMO capable clients. OFDMA is supported in the uplink and downlink across all bands capable of 37 users per 5 GHz channel used.
The Pro Series Platforms portfolio includes the 1200, 800, 600 and 400, named as such to represent the number of spatial streams of WiFi 6 connectivity supported (where the 1200 supports 12 streams, 800 supports 8, etc.). All are powered by a Quad-core A53 processor ranging from 1 GHz to 2.2 GHz.
It was only under two months ago that the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) published its 40-page set of guidelines for WiFi 6 – aiming to familiarize service providers with the taste of the next generation wireless technology in this critical period amid 5G network roll outs.
WiFi 6 is designed to significantly improve the performance of a number of concurrent users with multiple specific design principles, which impacts heavily on the number of business support systems (BSS) and backhaul requirements for a given coverage. The introduction of uplink multiple user access, including both UL OFDMA and UL MU-MIMO, will especially enable more concurrent accesses to the radio resources, according to the WBA.
UL OFDMA and UL MU-MIMO are cited throughout the report, credited for boosting power and range, with higher spectral efficiency, for example providing ideal for use in stadium builds given the increased demand for video upload, where it is common to limit the end user to speeds to just 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps.
Qualcomm’s newly unveiled second-generation WiFi 6 platforms also boast something called its “high differentiated maximum user networking architecture” which has been designed to associate and maintain connectivity for up to 1,500 clients at a time. Impressive.
Also at the company’s dedicated WiFi 6 Day was the launch of a new sub-system of wireless technology called the FastConnect 6800, the upgraded version of the FastConnect 6200 tech, with support for key WiFi 6 components like 1024QAM and OFDMA.
FastConnect 6800 will feature in a forthcoming Snapdragon chipset which means a number of Snapdragon-powered handsets should soon be rolling out with WiFi 6 support, broadening the selection from the current lone rider Samsung Galaxy S10.
Qualcomm cited a number of happy customers, namely Korea Telecom and Ruckus (part of CommScope). Lee Jong-Pil, VP at the KT Institute of Convergence Technology, commented, “Through our collaboration with Qualcomm, we ushered in a new era of super-fast and ultra-reliable mobile connectivity with the world’s first nationwide 5G cellular network. With the new WiFi 6 networking platform, we’ll be able to accelerate our time-to-market leadership and overall availability of WiFi 6 in South Korea, providing our customers with a seamless, next generation, connected experience, whether they’re using 5G on-the-go or WiFi at a busy hotspot.”
Hardware makers Belkin and Netgear were also quoted in Qualcomm’s Pro Series platform announcement, with the latter referencing its Orbi WiFi 6 Mesh product powered by Qualcomm. Netgear’s Orbi WiFi 6 Mesh claims to be a leap ahead of current industry offerings, delivering significantly enhanced capacity, coverage and simultaneous multi-user performance through tri-band support for quad stream radios. This is interesting because in the race to deliver tri-band WiFi 6 routers to market, Arris made a brazen recent claim that competing manufacturers (naming no names) cut corners and put older WiFi 5 or 802.11n technology on some of the bands, so their devices don’t deliver the full advantages or speeds that the technologies promise.
We expect and hope for plenty more horn-butting from WiFi 6 in the coming months and will be receiving a few updates from key players at IBC. The stakes are high, with smart home WiFi devices projected to triple to 17 billion units by 2030 from 5 billion today, according to recent research from Strategy Analytics, where WiFi 6 will account for approximately one third of smart home devices by this time.