By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Qualcomm may not have been the first to launch Wi-Fi 6E (6 GHz Wi-Fi) chipsets – that honour belongs to Broadcom and Celeno – but they’re arguably more than making up for it now: This week Qualcomm released a raft of new 6 GHz Wi-Fi products including two new mobile platforms and four new networking chipsets. The mobile tech giant is touting their flagship solution: The world’s first 16-stream Wi-Fi 6E-capable chipset delivering more than 10 Gbps of peak connectivity speed.
The world of wireless connectivity was transformed forever when the FCC on April 23 unanimously voted to release 1.2 GHz of 6 GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi. With some Wi-Fi chipset vendors having already released Wi-Fi 6E chipsets well in advance of the FCC’s decision, mobile and Wi-Fi technology giant Qualcomm may be a little late to the party. But Qualcomm arguably more than made up for this yesterday by releasing all of four networking chipsets for Wi-Fi 6E as well as two new Wi-Fi 6E-capable mobile (device-side) platforms to boot.
On the networking side Qualcomm launched “the world’s first tri-band 16-stream Wi-Fi 6E chipset” (dubbed the Networking Pro Series 1610) delivering up to 10.8 Gbps of peak speed using Qualcomm’s own 4K QAM modulation, which the company says boost throughput by 20% above and beyond standard Wi-Fi 6E 1024 QAM. The 4K QAM feature delivers a performance boost “for enhanced gaming and ultra HD streaming,” Qualcomm says.
The configuration for the top-of-the-range 1610 tri-band unit will be 4 (2.4 GHz) + 8 (5 GHz) + 4 (6 GHz) streams, while three more affordable models will provide six, eight, and twelve streams, respectively. The chipsets will all support up to a whopping 2,000 users, Qualcomm says – which suggests (although Qualcomm doesn’t say this specifically) the platform will lend itself well to massive IoT applications for industries and elsewhere.
As it will probably be a while before Wi-Fi 6E-capable mobile devices hit the markets, Qualcomm is sensibly banking on the applicability of 6 GHz Wi-Fi (tri-band capability) to whole-home Wi-Fi meshing. The new chipsets are specifically designed to use 6 GHz for mesh backhaul, boosting home Wi-Fi performance by leaving the full 5 GHz band available for devices. Historically, Qualcomm has been dominant in the retail mesh (consumer whole-home Wi-Fi routers) segment, powering such popular mesh systems as Google WiFi, TP-Link, Eero, and many others.
To affect the Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6E transition on the mobile device side, Qualcomm launched two new platforms dubbed FastConnect 6900 and 6700, respectively delivering 3.6 and 3 Gbps of peak connectivity speed. The platforms support Qualcomm’s 4K QAM (on all three bands) as well as 160 MHz channels on both 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands.
At Wi-Fi NOW we’re more than delighted that Qualcomm seems fully committed to what we like to call the Wi-Fi 6E connectivity paradigm shift – and that competition among the giants of the Wi-Fi 6E chipset market is heating up. Qualcomm’s new range of feature-rich 6E products – on both the networking and device sides – bodes extremely well for the future of 6E specifically – and hence for the future of Wi-Fi itself.