Cutting-edge Wi-Fi silicon will power high-def video distribution

The new chipset is half the size, yet loses much less power

Quantenna Communications has unveiled the newest version of its 802.11n Wi-Fi chipset, one of the few to use four transmit and receive antennas for very high and reliable throughput.

The company says the silicon is being used in trials by "over 12" service providers, for distributing high-bandwidth digital video services throughout an entire home. The chipset can sustain speeds of 145Mbps or more, and do so for much longer ranges, through intervening walls, than conventional 802.11n Wi-Fi chipsets.

Major Wi-Fi changes ahead

The new chipset is half the size of the previous product, and uses one-third less power. Other changes boost the radio's range and signal reliability, and significantly reduce radio interference, according to the company. Other changes make it easier to win transceiver certification in various geographies.

The new chip also features 80MHz channels, compared to the 20MHz channels in most Wi-Fi radios, and the 40MHz channels that 802.11n can support as an option. The wider the channel the greater the throughput. With 80MHz, the Quantenna chipset can support emerging standards such as 802.11ac, which will offer at least 1Gps in the under-6GHz frequency band.

"[O]ur 4x4 MIMO devices now approach the price range of 3x3 MIMO devices that have significantly less reach and reliability," according to Quantenna CEO David French, in a statement.

Multiple Input Multiple Output is a technique that creates multiple data streams, one for each set of paired antennas -- one sending, one receiving. It's used in 802.11n (Wi-Fi) but also in mobile WiMAX and Long Term Evolution cellular wireless networks. Combined with other techniques, the result is a huge improvement in the overall data rate and in actual throughput. There are other benefits as well: as distance increases, the data rate falls off much more slowly, and the signal itself is more resilient.

All of the benefits increase with more antennas, or more accurately more antenna pairs. Most 11n Wi-Fi clients use two  antennas, most access points use three. Quantenna and Qualcomm are among the very few using a 4x4 configuration.

Quantenna's main customers are equipment makers, carriers and service providers that want to use high-throughput wireless connectivity to distribute bandwidth-hungry applications such as high-definition video throughout an entire home to multiple screens or devices.

There are proprietary wireless technologies intended to do the same thing, from companies such as Amimon and SiBEAM. LG Electronics is offering a new line of HD screens based on Amimon's second generation 1080p chipset, which runs in the 5GHz unlicensed band.

Quantenna is betting that vendors would prefer a standards-based technology, especially one as widely adopted and as relatively inexpensive as Wi-Fi. In March, NetGear unveiled its first Quantenna-based home-entertainment products, the High-Performance Wireless-N HD Home Theater Adapters. You plug one into the home router or gateway to stream HD video from the network to a second NetGear adapter plugged into a Blu-Ray DVD player, Ethernet-enabled TV or set-top box. The adapter will be available probably in late Q3, according to a NetGear spokewoman.

In February, Quantenna raised $15 million from its current backers in a fourth financing round, for a total of about $60 million.

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John Cox

Network World
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