WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The combination of Gigabit WiFi and 5G now mean it’s possible to ditch your traditional fiber based broadband provider, and cut another chord.
Earlier this month, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that the next generation of Wi-Fi devices will be called “Wi-Fi 6,” all but dismissing the cryptic 802.11 variations that have inspired confusion over the past 19 years. But as it turns out, a smaller collection of super high-performance routers and devices will still use the 802.11 designation, and Qualcomm today announced the first chipsets that will power them.
Qualcomm is referring to its latest chipsets as part of its “60GHz Wi-Fi portfolio,” but the technology is also known as 802.11ay and WiGig, which, as the name implies will see Wi-Fi that’s capable of running at Gigabit speeds that rival the new mobile 5G standard. Unlike Wi-Fi 6 though, which solely uses the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio bands found in today’s Wi-Fi routers, WiGig adds additional 60GHz millimeter wave hardware that delivers even better speeds — albeit with less ability to penetrate walls.
Using 60GHz spectrum, the company’s new QCA64x8 (fixed) and QCA64x1 (mobile) chipsets promise 10Gbps speeds and sub-millisecond latency. Qualcomm claims its new chips deliver extended battery life that sets an industry benchmark for low power consumption, and more than just raw performance. Interestingly, the new chips also enable “always-on ambient Wi-Fi sensing capabilities” so that the locations and movements of people and objects can be identified precisely. While likely intended for signal beamforming, that feature could be used for emergency services, indoor mapping, and other capabilities.
But given that Wi-Fi 6 is likely to be the next big consumer standard, why would anyone care about WiGig? The short answer is that it could be used to make better use of just released fixed 5G home broadband services, as well as similarly fast next-gen wired broadband solutions.
The initial glut of fixed 5G services from a variety of suppliers around the world, from Singapore to the US, are promising to deliver up to 1Gbps bandwidth to homes and many are suggesting 5G could even replace fibre broadband as the main way to deliver connectivity to homes. As a consequence, users who want to take maximum advantage of that speed will need wireless routers built to match 5G’s bandwidth and latency and that’s where WiGig steps in, because today’s routers and devices can’t come close.
“Our 11ay solutions were developed with the flexibility to support a broad ecosystem of smartphone, router or fixed wireless access platforms,” said Qualcomm SVP Rahul Patel, “and provides the industry with the critical building blocks needed to take connectivity performance to the next level.”
Notably, the 802.11ay standard is a follow up to the original, fairly obscure WiGig standard 802.11ad, now using four MIMO streams to support four times the bandwidth — up to 44Gbps per stream, or 176Gbps across all four streams. While 802.11ad didn’t catch on with mainstream routers, it was used for high-bandwidth wireless VR headset adapters such as HTC’s and TPCast’s accessories for Vive and Oculus users.
Qualcomm expects that the new chips will be used for 4K entertainment and gaming experiences, lag-free mobile screen casting, and wireless Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences. The new chipsets are available now, and could show up in 802.11ay-based WiGig routers early this year.