Mobile

Wi-Fi gets another boost: Broadcom plans to double its speed this year

Broadcom 5G Wi-Fi

Above: Broadcom 5G Wi-Fi

Image Credit: Broadcom

Semiconductor giant Broadcom is announcing today that it is creating new chips that could double the speed of Wi-Fi wireless networks. That means wireless networks are still evolving as the whole industry is trying to deal with an expected tsunami of mobile data in the coming years.

The new chips will compete with rival products from Quantenna, which announced yesterday that it has created new wireless networking devices that could increase the speed of wireless networks to 10 gigabits a second, or 5.8 times faster than current chips. But Broadcom’s devices are slated to appear this quarter, while Quantenna’s are expected in 2015.

Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom calls its product the 5G Wi-Fi XStream, and it says it will feature the first six-stream 802.11ac multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) platform. The chip uses the latest tricks to try to cram more data into the wireless airwaves set aside for Wi-Fi networking. The tricks include taking advantage of interference and sending data to multiple users at the same time.

The faster Wi-Fi will be aimed at high-quality video streaming and home networking applications. Broadcom says its 5G Wi-Fi XStream is up to 50 percent faster than multiple-user MIMO routers and gateways, such as the one announced by Quantenna.

But Broadcom’s stated speed of up to 3.2 gigabits per second is well below what Quantenna claims with its 10-gigabit-per-second chips. Clearly, we’ve got a race between the companies to stretch the capabilities of the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard. Qualcomm also announced earlier this month that its Qualcomm Atheros division has created new MU-MIMO Wi-Fi chips that can double or triple network capacity.

Broadcom’s technology is smart enough to give priority to high-bandwidth applications like Netflix or YouTube, which now account for a sizable chunk of all Internet traffic.

“With the booming Internet-of-things ecosystem and demand to wirelessly stream simultaneous HD content on smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, home networks today need a premium performance router that recognizes individual bandwidth requirements for an optimal experience,” Broadcom vice president Rahul Patel said in a statement. “As the first company to introduce 802.11ac products and with our 5G Wi-Fi technology powering routers from the top five router companies, Broadcom adds a new industry first with the 5G Wi-Fi XStream platform.”

Customers include Asus, Belkin, and Netgear.

“With an average of seven Wi-Fi devices for every Wi-Fi enabled home today, predicted to grow to an average of 11 Wi-Fi devices in 2017, now is the time to future-proof home networks,” Netgear chief executive Patrick Lo said in a statement. “Broadcom’s six stream 802.11ac platform and advanced software provides us with the foundation to create products for the connected home of today and tomorrow.”

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