Earlier this week, Marvell Semiconductor introduced a new gigabit WiFi chipset. The new chipset implements a standard called 802.11ac 4×4 and delivers raw data rates of 1.3 Gbps. The chipset uses a 4×4 MIMO technique with 256 QAM modulation, operating on dual frequency bands. It also utilizes beam-forming to direct the energy in the radio signal toward the receiver, improving range and signal reliability. Infoworld reports some more tidbits:
“The demonstrations we are doing today are north of 800M bps of UDP throughput sustained over the air, and we will further improve upon that and expect to approach real gigabit per second throughput,” said Bart Giordano, director of product marketing at Marvell’s Wireless unit.
The Marvell 8864 chipset increases performance by using four antennas to receive and four to send data, a configuration which is referred to as simply 4×4. Sending and receiving data using multiple antennas is possible thanks to a technology called MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output), which is already used in both Wi-Fi and LTE networks.
In addition to MIMO, Marvell’s chipset also uses a technology called beamforming, which improves performance by aiming the signal at the receiver. The way Marvell has implemented beamforming means smartphones, tablets and laptops don’t have to proactively support it to get the advantages.
The combination of multiple antennas with beamforming results in higher speeds, as well improved range and reliability. For users the improvements also mean longer battery life, because devices such as smartphones can “get on and off the air” faster, Giordano said.
From Leverhawk’s point of view, this is a significant accomplishment because it’s the first time we’ve really neared the gigabit per second threshold for real-world WiFi performance. We’ve stated in the past that mobile technology is going to be very important moving forward, and high-speed wireless networking is a key to that. Increasingly, there is little need for a mobile device to store content locally. As WiFi and LTE become reliable and pervasive, devices will be able to leave content “in the cloud” and display it as needed in real time. This includes even bandwidth-hungry content like full HD video streams. In the limit, a mobile device can be reduced to little more than a touch-screen for I/O and a radio for communications. (The one notable exception here is gaming, which is still processor intensive.)
It will take a while for Marvell’s and other’s 802.11ac 4×4 chipsets to become pervasive, but the trend line is clear. We can expect greatly increased WiFi performance over the coming months and years. And that’s definitely a big lever.