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Qualcomm Delivers 6GHz Wi-Fi

June 30, 2020

Author: Linley Gwennap

Now that the US government has approved new 6GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi, Qualcomm wasted no time in unveiling a comprehensive set of client and router chips to implement it. The company’s FastConnect 6700 and 6900 chips will enable leading-edge smartphones to offer the new technology, branded Wi-Fi 6E, by the end of this year. They add a 6GHz RFFE and increase the maximum channel width to the full 160MHz for both 5GHz and 6GHz. Using a 160MHz channel and dual-band capability, the 6900 has a peak data rate of 3.0Gbps with QAM-1,024.

To support these emerging devices, vendors can develop Wi-Fi 6E access points (APs) using Qualcomm’s second-generation Networking Pro platforms, which handle up to 16 simultaneous streams for a peak throughput of 10.8Gbps. The new AP chipsets, numbered as x10 where x is the number of streams, update all but the low-end model while adding a new configuration at the high end. All are now sampling, with production scheduled for late this year.

Establishing a new communications technology is always a chicken-and-egg problem: client support is worthless without new APs, and vice versa. Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) breaks this cycle with a new use case in mesh routers. Currently, these routers aggregate traffic from nearby clients and beam it back the central unit on the same bands that clients use, reducing the bandwidth available for those clients. Wi-Fi 6E mesh routers will connect to each other on the 6GHz band, leaving the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands fully available for client devices. Thus, installing new mesh routers will improve network performance even without any new 6GHz clients.

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