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Broadcom boasts directional antennas for 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Coverage focusing part of new chippery

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Broadcom has provided more details on the 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips it will bring to production in the second half of this year.

The Broadcom chips, announced in January, are initially being aimed at the early adopters in the carrier and enterprise industry, and will be ready for volume production in the second half of the year, Michael Powell, senior product manager of enterprise wireless solutions for Broadcom, told The Register. In addition to the standard advantages of the faster wireless speeds, Broadcom has been working on its own special sauce to differentiate its offering.

For modern wireless environments, the company has added “implicit beam forming”. Rather than put out a wireless signal in all directions, the Broadcom chipsets can identify compatible devices and focus the wireless signal on them for faster speeds. This doesn’t need more hardware - unlike “smart antenna systems” which have multiple antennas and uses the one pointing in the right direction – but a smarter use of standard technology.

“This is only at the access point, the client doesn’t have to be set up,” Powell explained. “The access point can focus energy in the direction of the client as the chip tunes the energy their way.”

The effects of wireless interference, whether from existing Wi-Fi systems or other radio technologies, have also been addressed. Broadcom’s chips use spectrum analysis to identify likely patterns of interference and then uses on-board algorithms to try and tune out competing signals. “Airtime fairness” features are also included to speed up packet handling for faster clients.

The 802.11ac standard is being billed as the next logical extension to 802.11n Wi-Fi, offering the option of more antennas for faster throughput, better signal recognition, and improved interference amelioration. Broadcom estimates that the standard will become dominant for wireless connections within the next three years.

However, don't get too excited about the prospects of getting super-fast connections via an 8x8 antenna system, which is the theoretical maximum for 802.11ac. Powell said that its first chips would be in a standard 3x3 configuration, and that most manufacturers were unlikely to produce much hardware in the top specification.

The 802.11ac standard, currently being ratified by the IEEE, is largely finalized on the hardware side of things, and Powell said that that the systems Broadcom would introduce could be brought up to the final version with a simple upgrade. No details on final pricing have yet been announced, but Powell said they would be priced aggressively with a "slight" technology premium. ®

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