WiFi 6 Galaxy arrives months ahead of certification program

Samsung has set the stage perfectly for next week’s Mobile World Congress event with the release of the industry’s first WiFi 6 smartphone – powered by the new Broadcom BCM4375 chip. It will be many years before WiFi 6 becomes the dominant in-home silicon yet the excitement around this announcement reaffirms that smartphones will be the greatest driver of WiFi 6 adoption.

The WiFi 6-capable Samsung Galaxy S10 comes way ahead of the WiFi Alliance’s WiFi 6 certification program for devices using 802.11ax technology, which isn’t set to arrive until Q3 2019. The WiFi Certified 6 branding will ensure devices meet industry standards for interoperability and security, providing capacity, coverage and performance. The Alliance expects the program to drive broad adoption, so we may well see a surge of WiFi 6 device launches later this year.

But until then, Samsung and Broadcom will benefit from a number of WiFi 6 products already released, such as routers, home gateways and access points, with notable recent releases from Arris, Netgear and Asus.

The Broadcom BCM4375 supports two streams of WiFi 6 and includes the Bluetooth 5 feature set, Real Simultaneous Dual-Band, 1.43 Gbps WiFi PHY Rate, 1024 QAM Modulation, OFDMA and MU-MIMO.

Samsung Galaxy S10 users will see a WiFi 6 icon on the screen informing them when connected to the latest APs supporting WiFi 6. Consumer news site Engadget attended the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event and ran a speed test of the new S10, recording 76 Mbps when connected to a WiFi 6 router compared to 6 Mbps when connected to a router running an older version of the standard. Granted, this isn’t the most rigorous of tests, with countless mitigating factors potentially influencing speeds on either connection, as well as the fact WiFi at large events is notoriously poor. But still, it shows a vast difference.

This is achieved through a number of mechanisms implemented in WiFi 6 for the first time, those which essentially represent better recognition of the unlicensed nature of the spectrum and resultant interruptions. The WiFi Alliance has dropped in scheduling and additional coexistence techniques such as coloring, which enables a device to quickly determine whether an ongoing transmission belongs on its network. This is one technique used in spatial reuse, allowing devices under certain circumstances to be more aggressive in accessing the medium during the time that devices in other networks are transmitting. Another important development for coverage is improving performance at the edge.

It’s worth noting that Broadcom’s WiFi 6 chipsets have been integrated with access to AirTies’ Remote Manager, its cloud-based optimization suite that provides real-time visibility and historical performance analysis to manage the consumer WiFi experience.

AirTies also disclosed this summer that 51.3% of devices in the home still use 802.11n technology and to network these with WiFi 6 home gateways will be challenging and need something like the AirTies software to provide local intelligence.

Only last week, Wireless working group the IEEE made a contentious decision this week by allocating 6 GHz WiFi bands for WiFi 6 use only, much to the dismay of mobile operators. WiFi chip maker Quantenna believes the decision will lead to improved quality and capacity by avoiding interference from legacy devices.

Faultline Online Reporter will be on the lookout for WiFi 6 devices and silicon in Barcelona next week.