Broadcom pitches new chipsets to clear Wi-Fi network bottlenecks

The company's latest chipset can send data to four users at the same time

Most of us have had the experience of being unable to connect to a Wi-Fi network in a location with lots of people. A technology that promises to alleviate that problem is, however, slowly but surely making headway.

Upcoming 802.11ac wireless access points will able to handle more users and come in increasingly smaller packages, with the help of new transmission technology included in two chipsets from Broadcom.

MU-MIMO (multi user-multiple-input multiple-output) technology helps by alleviate bottlenecks allowing networks to transmit data to many users simultaneously instead of just one at a time.

On Wednesday, Broadcom launched the BCM43465 chipset, which is meant for access points that enterprises and carriers use to build Wi-Fi networks and hotspots. It can transmit data to four users at the same time or two at a higher speed using four antennas simultaneously.

CIOs are more interested in average throughput per user, not the maximum speed one user can get, said Mike Powell, director of marketing for Broadcom's enterprise wireless segment.

The drawback with MU-MIMO is that smartphones, tablets and laptops also have to be upgraded for the technology to work. But more and more products are becoming compatible with the technology. For example, just last week Acer announced new Aspire E laptops with MU-MIMO and Xiaomi launched the US$200 Mi 4i smartphone, which also has the technology built in.

The BCM43465 chipset is based on the so-called Wave 2 of the 802.11ac standard. Improvements include the use of up to 160MHz of spectrum to increase speeds.

For now, there are no publicly available clients that can handle that much spectrum, according to Powell. Broadcom believes that networks and devices will be upgraded to support MU-MIMO and other Wave 2 features over the next few years. New features may be added to client devices over time, but for enterprises and carriers it makes sense to move more quickly, buying network equipment that will not become obsolete.

Broadcom has also added the BCM47452 to its portfolio of chipsets for enterprise equipment. The goal with this product is to help cut the cost of basic 802.11ac access points and also decrease the size of them.

"We have actually seen a customer develop a board that I would say is approximately three inches by thee inches. That's extremely compact," Powell said.

The key to these improvements is more integration. The BCM47452, a SoC (system-on-a-chip), is the first to integrate 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios with power amplifiers and a CPU on a single device, according to Broadcom.

The first products powered by the chipsets are expected to arrive during the second half of the year.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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