(Image courtesy of Kristin Adair, Creative Commons).
In October, Quantenna revealed the first known chip to support an embryonic form of Wi-Fi that will not be released until around 2019. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday, the company previewed its second chip based on the standard, called 802.11ax.
The new chip, QSR5G-AX, supports an early draft of the standard, which technology analysts and industry executives have painted as a significant upgrade to the latest 802.11ac verion of Wi-Fi. It will not increase download speeds explicitly, but instead will improve how Wi-Fi networks share the available airwaves to reduce traffic.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has said that 802.11ax will coordinate multiple antennas to send multiple streams of data to devices. Each stream is split again with orthogonal frequency division multiple access, or OFDMA, a variation on the technology used in modern cellular networks, creating a bigger pipeline for data. In contrast, earlier forms of Wi-Fi created multiple streams but assigned only one to each device.
The new standard aims to provide better coverage in places filled to burst with mobile devices and connected sensors, like apartment buildings and offices. Wi-Fi networks in your neighbor's apartment or the office below yours can cause interference. It will also provide download speeds to over 10 gigabits per second.
“802.11ax is the future of Wi-Fi,” said Sam Heidari, Quantenna's C.E.O., in a statement. The company has jumped out ahead of major rivals like Broadcom, which last year completed its $37 billion merger with Avago to form Broadcom Incorporated. And that has given Quantenna clout with investors, who gave it around $160 million in funding before it went public late last year.
The QSR5G-AX supports 8 total streams for routers and set-top boxes. Four of the streams occupy the 5 gigahertz band and four in the 2.4 gigahertz band. The 5 GHz spectrum holds more room for wireless traffic than 2.4 GHz used at varying degrees by earlier standards.
The new chip is a slightly lighter version than the first 802.11ax chip released by Quantenna in October, which supports 12 streams of data. That product, the QSR10G-AX, is a drop-in replacement for older chips based on the company's 802.11ac chip architecture.
Both chips will be compatible with 802.11ax devices, like smartphones or computers, the company said. They will also be compatible with existing standards, like 802.11ac and 802.11n. Quantenna plans to begin sampling both the QSR10G-AX and QSR5G-AX chips in early 2017. It did not say when either chip would enter production.