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Chipmaker Marvell will offer 3 spatial streams in new chips, with 450 Mbps raw speed: Each spatial stream in 802.11n can hit 150 Mbps raw symbol rate when combined with 40 MHz channels. The 802.11n spec requires at least two spatial streams—two unique paths through space that reuse frequencies—but three or four are also possible, and it was predicted that 2008 would see a four-spatial stream product by year’s end with a raw 600 Mbps rate.
Marvell fires the first shot over the bow with this announcement, pre-Consumer Electronics Show (CES), tha they will ship a TopDog chipset at 450 Mbps. It won’t ship until second quarter 2008.
Expect more announcements as CES nears or at the show itself.
Broadcom will offer 802.11n on a single chip with a 50-percent power savings: The announcement, planned for tomorrow, was revealed early by Techworld this afternoon. Broadcom said the chip handles 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, can fit on a PCI Express Mini Card for laptops, routers, and consumer electronics, and will be in products by early 2008. They’ve reduced the cost of manufacture for a module by 40 percent with this new chip, and reduced its footprint by 50 percent, in addition to losing half the power requirements.
The dual-band part is particularly exciting, because it means that 5 GHz could become a standard expectation in adapters, allowing for the far better streaming and data transfer possible in that band.
The company says its Intensi-fi chips will have native support for Skype: This support means less coding and less work on the part of integrators who want to have Skype in their handheld devices. Lenovo also said they will include the Draft 1.0-like 802.11n that Broadcom offers in their N100 and some 3000 series laptops.
The company has shown live demonstrations of HDTV streaming video using its upcoming WLANPlus chipset: The firm was pushing the home entertainment aspect of 802.11n, combining quality of service—which prioritizes some data over other data—and high-bandwidth with long range to stream multiple high-definition signals. The press release quotes reliable research firm ABI noting a 10fold expected increase of Wi-Fi embedded in consumer electronics from about seven million devices in 2004 to 70 million in 2007. Metalink has a partnership with Haier, the giant Chinese CE maker.
The company claims the ability to offer multiple HD streams within a radius of 100 feet. They mention channel bonding and 5 GHz, which indicates a smart use of unused frequencies that, even with poorer propagation characteristics—5 GHz photons don’t penetrate as far with the same input power as 2.4 GHz photons—can provide a good range.
Paul Callahan updates his report on 802.11n silicon: He had earlier noted credible first-person reports that Marvell’s upcoming 802.11n chips were performing quite poorly in early testing. Marvell rebutted that to him, stating that they have chips in production (not just sampling or small quantities for testing), that performance is fine, and that consumer devices like gateways will sport the chips—not just specialized products.
Proof is in the pudding, of course, but the pudding should be out of the oven and in the fridge within a few weeks.
(Updated) At CES, Atheros and Broadcom showed working products based on early 802.11n chips: The demonstrations were off the show floor in private suites. These chips—along with Marvell, which had a chip to show but no working product—use the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) proposal as the basis of the silicon.
Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, and Marvell formed this private, originally secret group to cut through a roadblock in the 802.11n task group, which has a goal of higher throughput for future Wi-Fi standards. The EWC was criticized for working outside the IEEE process, but their proposal now has dozens of members of the 802.11n task group signed on.
Marvell’s chip isn’t in sampling yet—meaning it’s not available for manufacturers to start building products around—but a representative at the booth said it would be out any day. I was not invited to Atheros and Broadcom’s demonstrations—if I had been, I would have been under non-disclosure, too—but I expect they are in a close to similar state. The companies could produce the chips in quantities in a few months, meaning that 802.11n-like consumer products could be out as early as May or June.
The sense I got from being on the floor at CES and talking to a number of Wi-Fi equipment makes is that the EWC proposal will easily capture the majority necessary to move to a vote to accept a draft, and that it then has the 75-percent supermajority votes, too. Airgo is the only major wireless data chipmaker that hasn’t signed on to the EWC.
I’m never quite sure how the IEEE establishes rounds of votes, but if both the votes are held next week, the EWC version will win the day and move forward. The IEEE’s Web site puts finalization as early 2007 based on certain assumption.
Japanese network equipment supplier releases products using Airgo’s MIMO chips: The products will be sold across Asia and Europe, which must be a challenge given the variety of regulatory frameworks into which MIMO must fit. My understanding is that Airgo’s implementation generally toes the line with its 1st and 2nd generation chipsets. This release omits a mention of the 3rd generation silicon in describing these MIMO products. The 3rd gen chips have a dynamic option for 40 MHz wide channels instead of 802.11a/b/g’s standard 20 MHz channels. These wider channels aren’t uniformly allowed everywhere that Wi-Fi is approved. This is an issue for 802.11n, too, if they were to require a mandatory 40 MHz encoding, although channel selection has been solved through country-specific settings for virtually all Wi-Fi products.
Video54’s now Ruckus Wireless and is focusing on video: The company creates overlay chips and antennas that allow beamforming with spatial diversity—not exactly the spatial multiplexing of Airgo’s MIMO, but it still packs a bunch, as seen in the NetGear hardware that incorporates its first-generation technology overlayed on an Atheros chipset.
Ruckus will focus on video and has built quality-of-service (QoS) prioritization into its systems so that spatial paths can be blended with QoS to give video streams and signal paths greater priority for clearer signals. Their method is not identical to the still-in-progress 802.11e—it may be ratified this month—which has had bits and pieces turn into software and firmware in shipping products. QoS is supposed to allow different kinds of data to have different priority on the same network to keep voice, video, and data flowing without glitches.
I’ll be curious how this plays out in heterogeneous networks with many kinds of 802.11a/b/g and proprietary extension adapters using Ruckus Wireless gateways. The company can offer certain kinds of efficiencies at the hub, but as with a lot of this newer multipath technology, equipping all computers and systems with the same technology produces the optimum results.
The company seems to be expecting its technology to be hook into home-entertainment components, allowing a digital video recorder to stream its video to a remote display, among other tasks.
Its first hardware products, a gateway and an adapter, have retail prices of $169 and $129, respectively.
Airgo announced its next-generation MIMO chips today: Airgo’s newest entry in the MIMO field will hit 240 Mbps of raw throughput when communicating among identical devices. The new chips are backwards compatible with 802.11a, b, and g, and previous Airgo-based devices. Actual throughput should be about 100 Mbps versus about 20 Mbps for plain 802.11g and 30 to 40 Mbps with various extensions and antenna technologies.
Airgo’s director of product marketing Dave Borison said in an interview that the third-generation chips will help wireless enter the consumer-electronics market for streaming video around the house. “These products will literally support multiple streams of HD [high-definition television] over an entire home,” Borison said. The higher speed also comes with a maintenance of higher speeds at greater distances than existing gear of any kind.
The new chips employ 40 megahertz (MHz) wide channels rather than the 20 MHz used for 802.11 standards. Unlike Atheros Turbo mode in Super G, the Airgo chips expand spectrum to adjacent channels, and make that decision by monitoring spectrum on a frame-by-frame basis. Older devices receive 20 MHz single-channel transmissions; compatible newer adapters accept 40 MHz as available using what they call Adaptive Channel Expansion. “They don’t create negative effects on” neighboring channels Borison said.
The 240 Mbps rate doesn’t include compression; it’s the raw symbol rate passed through the devices, Borison said. As with earlier Airgo gear, both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz are supported with 802.11a, b, and g compatibility.
While Airgo isn’t producing equipment that matches point for point either of the competing proposals in Task Group N (802.11n), some aspects of these new chips parallel general trends in the group.
Borison said Airgo is confident that their technical lead will continue for some time. “We’ve now got four or five years plus, three generations of commercially available silicon, ahead of any of our competitors that haven’t even launched their first generation,” he said. The new chips are in sampling now with manufacturers.
Other coverage: Reuters notes that the new chips will cost less than the current generation.
Metalink announces sampling of its one-chip MIMO RF solution: The company says that it can pack everything that 802.11n will require into this single chip for RF. Of course, this is a little early to say that anything in 802.11n can wind up in silicon. I’ve spoken to a number of chipmakers, and none of them will finalize silicon until the specification is much further along. The latest IEEE meeting on 802.11n resulted in a step backwards from a draft proposal. Metalink says they’re sampling today, shipping in third quarter.