Broadcom and Quantenna in Arms Race to Speed Up Wi-Fi Data Rates

Paul Lilly

Both Broadcom and Quantenna are working on chips to dramatically increase 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds

We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but in the true sense of the term, there's simply no such thing as "future proofing." Take for example the draft 802.11ac standard. You can go out and buy the fastest consumer router avaiable today (a tossup between the Asus RT-AC66U/AC68U and Netgear R7000) and by this time next year, we'll likely have a new speed king. In fact, the efforts of two competing companies -- Broadcom and Quantenna -- all but ensure it. Both companies recently announced new chipsets that will make today's routers look pokey by comparison.

Let's start with Broadcom, which today introduced the industry's first six stream 802.11ac MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple Output) platform for home networks. Othewise known as "5G WiFi XStream," Broadcom is promising data rates of up to 3.2Gbps, a 50 percent improvement over Multi-User (MU) MIMO routers.

To fully understand what's taking place here, we have to back up a moment. Today's wireless chipsets aimed at the consumer crowd send and receive three spatial data streams at the same time. You might see this marketed as 3x3 MIMO. The fastest routers built around these chipsets deliver data on the 5GHz Wireless-AC band at up 1.3Gbps (1,300Mbps).

Broadcom's solution for home routers includes six 802.11ac streams and three 802.11n streams that run simultaneously. It also employs channel bonding technology to combine multiple channels on the 5GHz band to effectively create a single channel with 160MHz of bandwidth (today's 802.11ac routers use channel bonding for 80MHz of bandwidth).

Technical details aside, you're looking at faster Wi-Fi speeds over your home network, though Quantenna is promising even faster throughput. Quantenna said this week it's developing the world's first 10Gbps Wi-Fi chipset using 8x8 MIMO, compared to its existing 4x4 MIMO chipset, which has yet to be fully utilized by router makers.

Asus is current tapping into Quantenna's 4x4 MIMO chipset to build what Quantenna claims will be the world's fastest consumer router (1.7Gbps), so don't expect the 8x8 MIMO chipset to make any waves just yet. Instead, Quantenna is looking at making the first 10G Wi-Fi 8x8 MIMO chipsets available in 2015.

Image Credit: Broadcom

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