SK Telecom and Quantenna push the boundaries for 802.11ax

Pre-standard chips for the emerging 802.11ax standard are starting to appear and now SK Telecom has shown off its own implementation of 11ax, with ‘5G’ speed levels of up to 4.8Gbps.

Although the Korean operator has apparently done considerable inhouse work to boost the WiFi speed to this level, the demo does highlight how WiFi standards are evolving capabilities, from higher data speeds to lower power, which are generally associated with cellular 5G.

SKT’s implementation of 11ax, which will be ratified next year and which is particularly suited to high density environments, uses 4×4 MIMO and 160 MHz of bandwidth. It supports OFDM-A, multiuser MIMO and dynamic sensitivity control (DSC) technology to improve network efficiency. The operator plans to start deploying 11ax next year in areas of high traffic density.

It has built a WiFi testbed within its R&D center in Bundang to test performance of its 11ax technology in various scenarios, and is working on upgrading its access points to be commercially deployable by the end of 2017.

Head of network R&D, Park Jin-hyo, said the WiFi technology would be an important complement to 5G, adding: “By introducing the technology for the next generation WiFi that can deliver as fast as 5G technology, we at SK Telecom have successfully laid foundation to offer better mobile services.”

Meanwhile, WiFi chipmaker Quantenna was at Broadband World Forum in Berlin with a new chipset for 802.11ax mesh repeater networks dubbed the QSR10R-AX. It has three 4×4 802.11ax radios and integrated CPU cores for optimal mesh repeater functionality.

The idea is to have one channel – up to 160 MHz of bandwidth in 5 GHz – for downlink traffic and another channel for traffic coming the other way, making it full duplex. The 2.4 GHz channel is the usual both-ways chip, but this time it comes with 4 x 4 MU-MIMO. This two-way coverage, when combined with dynamic power features, makes for a more reliable backhaul, and is supposed to eliminate the need for a wired backhaul such as MoCA or HomePlug.

Arch-rival Qualcomm first introduced this idea of a triband WiFi chip in its last 802.11ac release, which forms the basis of many retail products in the US. The idea is to increase speed, but also get better quality of service and reach.

11ax will also dynamically organize its OFDM sub-channels, and allow multiuser in both directions, from the AP, which was available in 802.11ac, and from multiple devices to the AP, which will be new to this upcoming standard.

The latest WiFi standard also has a featured called coloring, which allows it to identify foreign packets from interfering neighbors, so that it can then adapt power and sensitivity so that it will not interfere with neighboring APs.