Tri-band Wi-Fi chips for multi-gigabit streaming coming from Qualcomm

Qualcomm logoQualcomm has purchased Wilocity, a startup making Wi-Fi chips that support multi-gigabit streaming by operating in the 60GHz band. Qualcomm will combine Wilocity technology with its own more traditional Wi-Fi chips to create a tri-band platform.

Wilocity demoed its technology (also known as "WiGig") at the Consumer Electronics Show last year, showing how faster speeds can power wireless docking from laptops to multiple monitors, streamed video games, and extremely high-speed file transfers. The drawback is that 60GHz transmissions are easily blocked, and thus the sender and receiver must be in the same room.

Snapdragon 810

WiGig on the 60GHz band has its own Wi-Fi protocol, known as 802.11ad. The latest Wi-Fi protocol for general use is 802.11ac, which uses the 5GHz band and can power throughput of more than a gigabit per second. Qualcomm's tri-band chips will combine these two protocols along with the older 802.11b/g/n ones that operate on 2.4GHz spectrum. Qualcomm said that this combination will "coupl[e] the whole home coverage of 11ac with the in-area multi-gigabit connectivity of 11ad." WiGig is technically capable of 7Gbps speed (although Wilocity's early chips hit a maximum of 4.6 Gbps). Wilocity is expected to ship a 4.6Gbps smartphone chip this year.

Qualcomm announced yesterday that it completed the purchase of Wilocity and will soon deliver "a family of tri-band platforms that combine Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.’s Wi-Fi and WiGig solutions to significantly increase performance and enable cutting-edge wireless applications. The initial tri-band platform is a reference design based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, which is the world’s first mobile platform designed to support WiGig." The Snapdragon 810 is expected to ship in the first half of 2015.

Qualcomm did not disclose financial terms of the acquisition. Rumors of the sale surfaced in May, at which time the acquisition price was reported to be $300 million.

Qualcomm Atheros has been an investor in Wilocity since 2008 and worked closely with the startup to develop its technology. The companies previously collaborated to launch a tri-band reference design, while Dell released a wireless dock using Wilocity chips to wirelessly connect a laptop to USB storage devices and up to two monitors.

Netgear recently claimed to offer the "industry's first tri-band wireless router," but it did so by using one 2.4GHz band and two separate bands within the 5GHz range, and it did not include 60GHz. Still, Netgear's "Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi Router" promised a healthy 3.2Gbps combined throughput. Routers using Qualcomm chips should easily beat that, although not until next year—and the type of customer who could use up all those gigabits is probably a rarity.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Qualcomm, Wi-Fi

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