Three chips for 802.11ax wireless ecosystem

Jon Lawson

Broadcom has launched three chips to support the latest 802.11ax version of WiFi across different markets.

The Max WiFi chips enable up to four times faster download speeds, six times faster upload speeds, four times better coverage, and seven times better battery life than 802.11ac.

The chips are designed to kick-start an ecosystem of Wi-Fi routers, residential gateways, enterprise access points, and smartphones with next generation Wi-Fi.

Max WiFi is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi supports delivery of simultaneous video, voice, data and IOT services to an ever-increasing number of wireless devices.

This means that steady, high-speed Wi-Fi with unprecedented quality of service in homes, offices and high-traffic public venues such as stadiums.

Max WiFi’s architecture is also optimised for internet upload, making social media live-streaming and cloud storage seamless.

The demand for high performance Wi-Fi in the home is growing unabated with a typical family of four expected to have an average of 50 connected devices by 2022.

At the same time, the amount of media content exchanged among mobile devices through the cloud has increased exponentially. According to Extreme Networks, 11.8 Tbytes of data was generated at this year’s Super Bowl in the US by fans posting videos, updating status, and streaming live from the stadium.

The need to support routers and smartphones with higher performance will be even more pronounced for emerging applications such as augmented reality & virtual reality.

“The 802.11ax Wi-Fi protocol is significant for users as it functions in the critical 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and adds OFDMA while retaining backward compatibility with legacy protocols," said Andrew Zignani, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. "The Wi-Fi device and traffic explosion, higher density Wi-Fi deployments, growing use of outdoor Wi-Fi, and the need to support a great variety of different device types will require more efficient Wi-Fi implementations that can help to deliver richer experiences for enterprise and consumer applications that are hungry for bandwidth.”

For smartphones the BCM4375 simultaneously implements two streams of 802.11ax with Bluetooth 5.0+  to enable Wi-Fi speeds up to 1.429 Gbit/s in the PHY physical layer. This includes the Low-Energy Long Range (LELR) capability of Bluetooth 5.0.

The BCM43684 is a chip targeted for the residential Wi-Fi market while the BCM43694 is optimized for use in enterprise access points with support for 4 streams of 802.11ax over a 4.8 Gbps PHY and 160 MHz Channel Bandwidth.

802.11ax uses a spatial reuse scheme to reduce interference and use the spectrum even more efficiently. Each Wi-Fi access point and client transmits data with a unique identifier called a ‘colour’.

The transceiver listens for interference before sending data, and will back off if it senses data in the band. With 802.11ax, when an access point or a client listens first before transmitting data, they are more aggressive if they hear data from a different colour, as that data is going to a different AP further away from the client.