Quantenna launches its third gen 4×4 MIMO Wi-Fi chipset

Designed for high-bandwidth video using the 5GHz band

WI-FI HAS BECOME something of a ubiquitous standard these days, as pretty much every notebook, smartphone and even a lot of consumer electronics feature Wi-Fi connectivity these days. However, Wi-Fi can’t really compare to wired Ethernet when it comes to performance, well, that’s unless you’re using a Quantenna Communications based product with 4×4 MIMO.

Most Wi-Fi routers or access points in the market today are most likely still using the 802.11g standard at 54Mbit, although the newer 802.11n standard is slowly gaining ground. 802.11n comes in a wide range of options, something most people aren’t aware of. One feature that launched alongside 802.11n was something called MIMO or Multiple Input Multiple Output which allows for more than a single antenna to be used. However, it’s down to the manufacturer to design this feature and today we have routers with 2×2, 3×2 and 3×3 solutions, all claiming to offer speeds of up to 300Mbit. There are of course some single antenna 802.11n routers as well, but these only offer half the speed at up to 150Mbit.

Quantenna has taken things to the next level with its 4×4 MIMO design which uses four antennas to transmit and receive the signals. According to Quantenna’s CEO, David D. French, this help extend the range much further than competing solutions, although this isn’t the only trick up Quantenna’s sleeve. The company has also implemented something called Beamforming, which is the real kicker. A normal Wi-Fi access points sends its radio signals pretty much in a circle with equal amounts of power to each and every part of it. However, Beamforming enables Quantenna based Wi-Fi access points to send much more directed radio signals to each of the devices connected.

What this means is that more power is used to get the signal to and from where it should. Quantenna’s solutions are of course limited by the same transmission power standards as any other Wi-Fi product, but because the signal is much more direct, it can actually reach further than what traditional Wi-Fi equipment. There’s also a performance benefit to be had from this, as there’s less signal degradation which results in faster Wi-Fi speeds. It’s all pretty neat stuff, but then you have to ask the question, why aren’t we all using Quantenna based products?

Well, we might be soon enough, at least if today’s press conference was anything to go by. Quantenna announced a new chipset today, the QHS610 which offers all the benefits of its previous two solutions, at two thirds of the cost of its predecessors. So far 4×4 MIMO routers have been scarce due to the high cost and it’s only really been Netgear that’s launched a retail product. However, Quantenna said that we’ll be seeing a lot more products later this year, most likely in the early fall when its partners get ready to launch new products based on the QHS610.

Quantenna isn’t actually targeting home Wi-Fi usage as such, although there’s no reason as to why this won’t work. Instead, Quantenna is trying to sell its chipsets as the ideal solution for sending HD video around the home. All of Quantenna’s solutions are dual band 2.4 and 5GHz and the 2.4GHz frequency is the one they suggest for normal Wi-Fi usage, while the 5GHz frequency is the one they use for beaming video streams around the house. Quantenna is working actively with both cable operators and video over IP companies to offer wireless video streaming solutions for inside the home.

At today’s event a demo was set up which consisted of four Blu-ray players in one part of a rather large room, a couple of hardware video encoders which took the HDMI output from the Blu-ray players and turned it into H.264 video with a bit rate of about 15Mbit and then all this was piped into a Gigabit switch to which a QHS600 based Wi-Fi access point was connected. The video was then sent to four different HD TVs around the room, each with a Wi-Fi receiver and an HD capable media player connected to them. In all fairness, we did see some stuttering, but we were told that this was a drawback of the room being too small and the receivers were too close to each other.

This is definitely very interesting technology and if Quantenna can manage to find the right partners, this looks like a big step forward for Wi-Fi. In tests performed by Quantenna, the 4×4 MIMO solution proved to be fast enough to saturate wired 100Mbit Ethernet, something you won’t see any standard 802.11n router do. Mr French also gave us a glimpse into the future, as he claimed that in about three years to or so, when the 802.11ac standard is ratified, Quantenna should be able to offer speeds of up to 1.2Gbit in the 5GHz spectrum, now that’d be something.S|A

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