Qualcomm Eyes the 7 Gbps-Capable WiGig (802.11ad) Market

– Reportedly Considering Acquisition of WiGig Leader Wilocity
– Could Eliminate Lots of Connector Cables
– Up to 4 Gbps at Low Power in Smartphones & Tablets
Significance: Bring on the UHD! In fact, bring on the 8K version of UHD and any other bandwidth-hungry applications that come along such as telemedicine, tele-education and high-definition home monitoring. A newly developed wireless home network technologies can easily handle them all.

A version of 802.11 called 802.11ad, marketed under the WiGig brand, is capable of up to 7 Gbps at short ranges such as from a STB or UHD media player to a TV set — not typically from room-to-room. WiGig technology has initially appeared mainly in peripheral connectivity applications like wireless USB but its main potential will be in-home video networks to wirelessly send videos, even UHD videos, to a TV set from a STB, NTB, Blu-ray and UHD player, smartphone, tablet or PC. It may also be used for the next generation of hotspots, both public and home-based, as well as by the corporates. Its limitations in range mean it will often appear in tri-band combinations alongside dual band 802.11ac and will be used when someone transfers large blocks of data like video data at short-distances such as to/from a smartphone, tablet or PC.

Despite Qualcomm’s entry into other technologies, wireless connectivity is the heart of its business. Much of its R&D and its acquisitions strategy still focus on this. Qualcomm embraced Wi-Fi with the purchases of Airgo and Atheros and is the biggest backer of LTE-U, which harnesses the license-exempt 5GHz frequencies for cellular standards.

It knows that Wi-Fi is becoming an integral part of the mobile landscape as it already is in the home and in hotspots. It is not enough for Qualcomm to sell a lot of Wi-Fi chips and integrate them tightly (still its key competitive strength) with 3G, LTE, Bluetooth and its Snapdragon ARM-based processor. It needs to be the company that drives the next generation of platforms, establishing the influence of an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) base (even when, in the changing world of mobile patents, these may be royalty-free, or placed in patent pools or open source foundations). Patents have generated revenues and driven most of Qualcomm’s profits but they are also a source of power and a reflection of the firm’s engineering heart and its relentless pace of innovation.

This is where its latest rumored acquisition comes in that Qualcomm is close to finalizing the purchase of Wilocity — the pioneer in WiGig, which will deliver multi-gigabit speeds in unlicensed 60GHz spectrum with Wi-Fi-like technology. This would enable Qualcomm Atheros to take an early position in the emerging 802.11ad standard as this starts to penetrate mobile and home devices and will strengthen the budding alliance with Cisco.

The term WiGig is to 802.11d as the term Wi-Fi is to the rest of the 802.11 technologies. The full 802.11 standards have more in them and the Wi-Fi/WiGig specs are a subset that has to be supported to get the certification.

Some companies are pushing WiGig to rather longer distances so it can do a video network within a room or from an adjacent cabinet/closet that contains the home’s stack of entertainment devices. The availability of Wi-Gig, either embedded in devices or in external adapters, will greatly reduce that rat’s nest of wires behind most consumers’ stack of devices. That’ll appeal to consumers just as wireless whole-home DVRs are doing from the likes of DirecTV, AT&T and Liberty Global.

Qualcomm is reportedly on the point of buying Israel-based Wilocity for about $300 million, according to Israeli newspapers. The deal could give it a head start in multimode, ultra-high speed devices and an early IPR play for next-wave wireless networks, which will be heavily focused on high frequencies.

Wilocity was the first company to deliver commercial chips supporting preliminary drafts of the 802.11ad standard, branded as WiGig. This extension to the 802.11 family of specifications is Wi-Fi-compatible and achieves multi-gigabit speeds (up to 7 Gbps in theory) by harnessing the high capacity of the 60GHz license-exempt band.

Initially a competitive effort to very high speed efforts within the main 802.11 groups, the 60GHz technology gradually came closer to the WLAN mainstream as the 802.11ad specifications matured, and its organization was finally merged with the Wi-Fi Alliance, which kicked off a certification program in September — though still retaining some separation by keeping the distinct WiGig name and logo. Now it is widely seen as complementary to the other new high speed standard, 802.11ac, which runs in conventional 5GHz Wi-Fi spectrum and can achieve speeds of over 300 Mbps using MIMO and wide bands — and theoretically get up to 1Gbps.

The short-range WiGig technology has initially appeared mainly in peripheral connectivity applications like Wireless USB but its main potential is in home video networks, enterprises, hotspots, and multimedia mobile devices. Its limitations in range mean it will often appear in tri-band combinations alongside 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ac radios, or will be targeted at short-distance applications such as smartphone/TV data transfer.

Qualcomm cast off its long-standing enmity towards unlicensed wireless technologies when it acquired Airgo and then Atheros, the two firms which contributed most to the 802.11n generation of fast Wi-Fi. Now it could take a similarly powerful position — in terms of standards influence and IPR – in 802.11ad. But this is not one of the acquisitions where Qualcomm only gains expertise and patents — Wilocity has actual commercial silicon, which could help its putative new owner be first-to-market with mainstream 11ad/Wi-Fi/cellular combinations for devices or small cells.

Wilocity shipped its first commercial silicon in December 2012, and says it has shipped more than a million chipsets to PC manufacturers, with Dell the most high profile customer. In February, the start-up announced its first smartphone product, the Wil6300 chipset, which delivers speeds of up to 4.6 Gbps at low power.

Wilocity has so far raised about $105 million from VCs and an impressive range of strategic investors, including Qualcomm itself and Wi-Fi and G.hn chipmaker Marvell. In November it announced that Cisco had taken a minority stake and that it was collaborating with the network equipment leader on proof-of-concept trials for small cells that integrated 3G/LTE with 11ad, particularly for enterprise applications such as video communications.

Wilocity co-founder and CEO Tal Tamir sees tri-band products enabling hotspots of very localized capacity within broader enterprise networks, perhaps to serve meeting rooms; to improve wireless coverage and speed in public areas such as stadiums; and to offload data from wireline or cellular networks for specialized, localized functions such as medical imaging.

Neither WiGig nor its 60GHz rivals like WirelessHD were really designed for mobile access, while LTE is not ideal for high frequencies.

Assuming Qualcomm closes on Wilocity, it will not only indicate deepening interest in next generation Wi-Fi and in high frequency mobile technology. It will also be a 

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