January 6, 2015 | By Mike Dano
LAS VEGAS–Wi-Fi is growing up, according to one Qualcomm executive. Todd Antes, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Atheros, said that the technology company’s recent work on Wi-Fi technologies is a reaction to the increasing demands of Wi-Fi users–and the opportunities that presents.
Specifically, Antes said that many of Qualcomm’s latest advancements in Wi-Fi are geared toward improving the technology’s reliability and capacity.
“The last decade (for Wi-Fi) was all about speed,” Antes explained. As a result, “Wi-Fi networks have become victims of their own success” because they are becoming congested. In response, Qualcomm and other Wi-Fi vendors are bringing technologies from the cellular space like MIMO and OFDMA into the Wi-Fi industry to make Wi-Fi connections more reliable and efficient.
Here on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show, Antes showed off a handful of Qualcomm’s most recent Wi-Fi announcements. He said that the company is now offering “multi-user” MIMO technology in Wi-Fi, dubbed MU-MIMO. The technology helps to support multiple users of a single Wi-Fi access point, and was originally developed for cellular networks. Qualcomm said the technology can increase speeds overall for users by two to three times. Qualcomm said its MU-MIMO technology, which falls under its Vive brand and is called MU | EFX, was introduced last year, but today the company said vendors including Amped Wireless, Buffalo, D-Link, NEC, TP-Link, TRENDnet and Xiaomi have committed to using the technology.
Separately, Antes said Qualcomm is also showing off its 802.11ad technology, which works in the 60 GHz band and is based on Qualcomm’s acquisition of Wilocity last year. Antes said that although the technology only works across short distances, like a few meters, it can quickly transmit enormous amounts of data. In a demonstration at the company’s CES booth, Antes showed how a 122 MB movie could move from a movie rental kiosk to a tablet in under 2 seconds. The demonstration also showed off Qualcomm’s tri-mode Wi-Fi prowess, working across 60 GHz, 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. Qualcomm is sampling 802.11ad chips now and expects products with the chips to be released next year.
Finally, Antes also showed off Qualcomm’s smart Wi-Fi gateway. He explained the product–a reference design for sale to Qualcomm’s OEMs–is designed to work as a platform rather than just a standard Wi-Fi product. He said that, with the company’s new smart gateway, service providers could offer additional services such as IP-based parental controls or virus protection. “The gateway is perfectly positioned to be involved in all of these IP things happening in the home,” he said.
Looking ahead to Qualcomm’s Wi-Fi priorities for this year, Antes said the company plans to continue to push its MU-MIMO technology as well as its 802.11ad offering. He also said that Qualcomm will work on the emerging 802.11ax standard, which promises to add OFDMA technology into the Wi-Fi specification for more efficiency. That technology hasn’t yet been released by Wi-Fi standards organizations, but could become commercialized by 2017 or 2018.