Qualcomm, Quantenna Roll Out Multi-User MIMO

14 April 2014

Both Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, Calif.) and Quantenna Communications Inc. (Fremont, Calif.) have announced support for an enhanced version of multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna communications that can improve network efficiency.

MIMO is the use of multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver to improve communication performance. It is one of several forms of smart antenna technology that at the higher end can include beam-forming communications to strengthen the signal in preferred directions or lobes.

However, most of these techniques are optimized on the assumption of one-to-one duplex communications. In many wireless systems, just as in wired internet networks, it is often the case that multiple receivers are requesting the same signal from a sender. Obvious examples include popular web pages and streaming video.

The ability to have multiple receivers to one streamed signal is the essence of multi-user MIMO and it is that includes network efficiency.

Qualcomm Atheros is offering 802.11ac chips that support MU-MIMO that can optimize traffic to make use of the additional network bandwidth. Qualcomm claims that in practice this can increase network capacity by a factor of two or three. However, to get the most benefit they do need to be implemented at both ends of the communications channel.

The QCA9980 and QCA9982 solutions for routers and gateways, and the QCA9990 and QCA9992 solutions for enterprise access points. The three- and four-stream QCA9990 and QCA9992 Wi-Fi transceivers are intended for networking infrastructure and feature 256-QAM modulation, and explicit and implicit beamforming. The chip are expected to sample in the second quarter of 2014.

Meanwhile Qualcomm is supporting single and double stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO on its chips for mobile devices, consumer electronics and automobiles.

MU-MIMO support is built into Qualcomm Atheros 802.11ac client solutions, and is supported on the Snapdragon 805 and 801 mobile processors. Other consumer equipment transceivers that support MU-MIMO include the QCA6174, WCN3680, the QCA9378 for set-top box applications and the QCA6574 for automotive applications.

Quantenna leaps in

Meanwhile Quantenna Communications Inc., a pioneer of 4 by 4 MIMO and beamforming technology for wireless communications, has announced it is developing a 10G Wi-Fi chipset with support for MU-MIMO configurations up to 8 by 8 and data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps. Intended for application within access points in the home, the enterprise and public spaces Quantenna claims its chips will offer "universal support for MU-MIMO clients."

Quantenna plans to make the first 10G Wi-Fi chipsets available in 2015, including support for MIMO configurations up to 8x8.

"After seven years of MU-MIMO development and testing, we've gained a deep understanding of real-world channel behavior with this advanced Wi-Fi technology in crowded environments," said Dan Rabinovitsj, senior vice president at Qualcomm Atheros, in a statement. "These insights have led to the creation of our precision-based algorithm technology that, along with technologies like the Qualcomm Internet Processor and StreamBoost, maximizes Wi-Fi performance for all connected devices."

Patrick Lo, CEO of Netgear, described MU-MIMO as the next logical step in the evolution of 802.11ac Wi-Fi communications.

"We’ve made 4x4 MU-MIMO a reality, but we can’t stop there," said Sam Heidari, CEO of Quantenna Communications, in a statement. "The demand for reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi will only increase. The number of Wi-Fi enabled devices in the home is growing faster than anyone predicted. Outdoor applications like carrier Wi-Fi, mobile offload and broadband delivery are quickly emerging. Wi-Fi has to keep up. That’s where 10G Wi-Fi comes in. Wi-Fi is no longer a convenience. People expect it to ‘just work’ even with demanding applications like HD video streaming."

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