Computex: Broadcom and Qualcomm surf Wave 2

Majors court OEMs with 802.11ac silicon


While the show floor gets headlines for consumer gadgets, Computex is also a venue for sand-slingers to try and get a handshake from Asian kit companies for their next round of chips.

And with Wave 2 802.11ac on the manufacturing schedules, it's no surprise that Qualcomm and Broadcom are duking it out in the exhibition with duelling chipsets.

From Qualcomm, there's a pair of multi-user multi-input/multi-output (MU-MIMO) devices targeting home and enterprise access points.

The Qualcomm chipsets run a 4x4 antenna configuration and support 160 MHz radio channels. The 160 MHz operation can be either as a single channel, or as bonded non-contiguous 80 MHz channels, and are the next speed boost for 802.11ac over today's 80 MHz radios.

There's a home router version, the QCA9984, and the QCA9994 for enterprise access points. The chief difference between the two is that the enterprise version adds narrow 5 MHz or 10 MHz channels for public safety applications (public safety authorities are looking to WiFi for ad-hoc emergency networks).

To make upgrades easier for box vendors, the chips are package-compatible with their predecessors.

Broadcom's got a 4x4 platform as well, but it doubles down with eight-stream capability. The XStream platform touts 5.4 Gbps aggregate physical layer performance (note: that's not the end-user throughput).

The chipset combines the BCM47094 dual ARM host processor with three 4x4 radio units under the BCM4366 range. The top performance comes from an eight-stream capability on 5GHz carriers, while four streams are supported on 2.4 GHz carriers.

There's software to pick channels that are only carrying 802.11ac traffic (instead of backing off to let the older units join in), and specific NAS support to run storage traffic at up to 1 Gbps.

Broadcom also wants to plant its foot in the next generation of broadband routers on the wired interface, with a 1W gigabit Ethernet chip.

Targeting European Code of Conduct energy efficiency requirements, the 28-nm process BCM53134 chip supports the Energy Efficient Ethernet standard 802.3az, to further cut power consumption.

The 802.3az support means, for example, that the chip can be put to sleep – officially, Low Power Idle – when there's nothing happening on the link. Broadcom reckons this can cut power consumption by another 60 per cent.

Each of the chip's eight ports includes eight selectable service classes to help IP video and voice services, with support for 802.1p, Type of Service (ToS) and DiffServ, and the chip has a 2.5 Gbps serialiser-deserialiser to support other technologies like 802.11ac and GPON. ®

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