5G, THAT'S A THING MEANT TO BE HAPPENING but is always round the bloody corner, so Qualcomm is looking to jump the gun with a WiFi chip that rivals 5G speeds.
Qualcomm's new family of 60GHz WiFi chipsets, currently comprising the snappily-named QCA64x8 and QCA64x1, deliver connection speeds of up to 10Gbps; that's 5G speeds but on a WiFi connection.
The chip maker is doing this by essentially adopting a new standard of WiFi built on top of the WiGig wireless technology.
Using the 802.11ad WiFi connections standard, WiGig offers connection speeds of up to 5Gbps within a range of some 10 metres. Qualcomm plans to give such a standard a kick up the jacksie with what it's calling 802.11ay, and claims can reach double the speeds of WiGig at some 100 metres away from the chips that support it.
Such nippy WiFi comes courtesy of using the millimetre wave radio waves (mmWave) which use the 60GHz frequency and can delver high-bandwidth, high-speed, and low-latency connections.
So why is this a new WiFi standard rather than a replacement to the current standard, you might ask, given the hike in speed it offers?
Well, the problem with mmWaves is that they rely on connections through line-of-sight, making them a tad impractical to use if you have a router in one room yet want a nippy WiFi connection all over your house or office.
To benefit from 10Gbps connections, you'd basically need to be in the same room as your mmWave router. So there's an argument that 802.11ay isn't up to scratch to replace the 802.11ad standard let alone the common 802.11ac standard found in modern routers.
So what it for? Well, the jury's out on that. WiFi modules with Qualcomm's new chips could be used in virtual reality headsets to act as a same-room connection between the headset and the PC powering it, thereby cutting out the need for wires connections, which hamper the VR experience somewhat.
And according to Qualcomm, the 802.11ay standard could be used to improve things such as streaming 4K content to devices or for lag-free casting of a smartphone's screen to a connected TV, without relying on wires.
The upcoming Asus RoG phone is set to use Qualcomm's existing 60Hz WiFi tech, so there's clearly some interest around getting very speedy connections even if line-of-sight is needed.
On the bigger picture side of things, Qualcomm's chips could be used to power WiFi masts designed to bounce high-speed wireless connections around urban areas in lieu or 5G, as seen with Facebook Terragraph project which uses WiGig.
It's unlikely 802.11ay will replace 5G, as that will be needed to connect all manner of devices and taps into larger swathes of spectrum. But it could be one way of building on top of existing Wi-Fi connections in order to get more out of wireless tech.
But it's early days, so we'll have to see if 802.11ay catches on and if Qualcomm can flog chips embracing that standard of if it should stick with its efforts in creating 5G-ready Snapdragon chipsets. µ
Won Ton Destruction
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