Qualcomm is known for inventing the technologies that turned phones into smartphones, and put a world of information into the palm of our hands. As powerful as the mobile ecosystem has become, our growing reliance on connectivity is taxing the scarce resource that delivers it—network capacity.
Whether you’re connecting over LTE or Wi-Fi, a good experience depends on a long list of factors—from the type of spectrum available, to the volume of traffic is traversing the airwaves, and the number of devices vying for precious network bandwidth. When it comes to Wi-Fi, that last one is the kicker. Wi-Fi uses shared spectrum, so as more devices connect, each of them gets a smaller share of the total capacity. And since most of us would rather give up chocolate than Wi-Fi, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc. is applying significant innovations to make the most of Wi-Fi capacity.
First, we’re boosting the total amount of Wi-Fi capacity. Our latest 802.11ac solutions use four antennas to deliver 1.7 Gigabits per second (Gbps), while their 802.11ad cousins use the vast 60 GHz spectral band to achieve up to 7 Gbps. We’re even combining the two technologies to enable network gear that can do it all—fast Wi-Fi throughout a home or office, plus high-capacity zones in living rooms, conference rooms and classrooms.
Qualcomm Atheros is also enabling more efficient use of existing capacity. A year ago, we introduced the world’s first 11ac solutions with multi-user MIMO (a.k.a. Qualcomm MU | EFX), which helps Wi-Fi networks multi-task like never before. Not only can routers support more devices at once, but the extra efficiency is designed to lead to 2-3 times faster connections for every smartphone, laptop, tablet and TV. Not a bad deal.
Our customers agree. So far, over a dozen manufacturers have introduced networking, mobile and computing products with Qualcomm MU | EFX technology—including leading brands like Acer, Amped Wireless, Aruba Networks, AVM, Dell, Hiltron Technologies, HTC, Linksys, NEC, NETGEAR, Nubia, Ruckus Wireless, Samsung, Sharp, TP Link and Xiaomi. As dozens more customers prepare to hit the market, the benefits of MU-MIMO will continue to multiply.
This week, we announced yet another way to maximize Wi-Fi capacity, with new 11ac chipsets that support wider channels. Whereas existing networks transmit and receive over channels that occupy 20, 40, or 80 MHz, our latest solutions can use 160 MHz channels (where available) to double the capacity and improve performance at short- and mid-range. In areas where unlicensed spectrum is more scarce, our radios are designed to dynamically adjust to aggregate two 80MHz channels, or use a different combination of antennas to ensure the best possible performance at all ranges.
For anyone who’s struggled to send an urgent email over a crowded airport network, or fallen asleep waiting to download a movie, we feel your pain. And Qualcomm Atheros is working on ways to overcome the capacity challenges that threaten to bring down the Wi-Fi networks we all rely upon. The technologies we’re introducing today can have a significant and lasting effect on Wi-Fi performance for years to come.