broadcom 5g wifi Broadcom launches its first 802.11ac Gigabit 5G WiFi chips

It's already been five years since 802.11n arrived, although back then in its draft standard and things have progressed slowly since then, although some 450Mbps hardware started to show up last year. This year looks set to be the launch for the 802.11ac standard, also known as 5G WiFi which promises Gigabit speeds, better coverage, improved reliability and lower power usage and Broadcom looks set to be one of the first chip makers for the new standard.

It's already been five years since 802.11n arrived, although back then in its draft standard and things have progressed slowly since then, although some 450Mbps hardware started to show up last year. This year looks set to be the launch for the 802.11ac standard, also known as 5G WiFi which promises Gigabit speeds, better coverage, improved reliability and lower power usage and Broadcom looks set to be one of the first chip makers for the new standard.

We've already written about the 802.11ac standard, although that was nearly a year ago and things seem to have progressed quicker than originally anticipated. To do a quick recap and catch-up 802.11ac will operate on the 5GHz band, although originally it was said to operate at 6GHz and below, although no specific frequency was given. By now it's clear that 802.11ac will be using the same 5GHz band as 802.11a/n, although with some significant differences. For starters 802.11ac will use 80 and 160MHz channel width compared to a maximum of 40MHz for 802.11n.

80211ac coverage Broadcom launches its first 802.11ac Gigabit 5G WiFi chips

802.11ac also supports twice as many MIMO spatial streams as 802.11n (8 vs. 4), an increase of the QAM (Quadrature amplitude modulation) count from 64 to 256 and it will support multi-user MIMO which allows for further increased performance depending on the configuration of the transmitting and receiving end. Not all devices will support Gigabit speed, as smaller devices are likely to end up much slower than that due to the inability to fit enough antennas. This is one of the downsides of 802.11ac, as to reach really high speeds, at least two, preferably three or four antennas need to be used, although eight antenna configurations are also planned.

Broadcom has announced four new chipsets starting with the BCM43516 which is intended for PCs and other consumer electronics devices. It's a single chip solution that offers speeds of up to 433Mbps using 80MHz channel width, dual-band support with current Wi-Fi networks and a USB 2.0 interface. We'd say Broadcom is pushing it a bit here, as USB 2.0 has a theoretical peak bandwidth of 480Mbps and although we wouldn't expect to see wireless speeds of 433Mbps, there isn't much life left in the old USB 2.0 standard when it comes to new high-speed wireless technologies.

broadcom 5g wifi Broadcom launches its first 802.11ac Gigabit 5G WiFi chips

Next up we have the BCM4352 and BCM43526 which supports two streams and speeds of up to 867Mbps. The feature set is the same here, although the BCM4352 has a PCI Express 2.0 interface, while the BCM43526 gets to make do with USB 2.0 and clearly will never reach its advertised speeds due to the USB 2.0 bottle neck. That said, it's possible that the BCM43526 will still perform better than the BCM43516 in some environments thanks to its dual antenna configuration. The BCM43526 is intended for use in PCs, TVs and other A/V products according to Broadcom, while the BCM4352 is intended for PCs, access points, routers and internet gateways.

The fourth and final product is the BCM4360 which supports three streams and speeds of up to 1.3Gbps. Interestingly it's still only using 80MHz per channel, so it appears that we'll have to wait for 160MHz per channel to make an appearance either from one of Broadcom's competitors, or at a later point in time. The BCM4360 uses a PCI Express 2.0 interface and is intended for use in PCs, access points, routers and gateways.

Broadcom will be demoing partner products at CES and judging by the quotes in Broadcom's press release we can expect products from Asus, Belkin, Buffalo, D-Link, Huawei, Lenovo, Motorola, Netgear, Ubee and ZTE that supports 802.11ac. As to how many will actually use Broadcom's solutions is a different matter, but it looks like wireless networking is set to get a significant speed boost this year, even if wired Ethernet isn't likely to be disappearing any time soon.

Source: Broadcom