Qualcomm is one of the leaders in the Wi-Fi chipset business and the company is updating its product stack with new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) offerings that are marketed under the Networking Pro family (supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands). As with Qualcomm's family of popular Snapdragon SoCs for smartphones, there are four separate SKUs with increasing levels of performance and features.
But before we get into the nitty gritty regarding the specs of Qualcomm's new Wi-Fi 6 chipsets, maybe we should give you a quick refresher on what exactly Wi-Fi 6 brings to the table compared to its predecessor, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). Wi-Fi 6 adds support for uplink and downlink orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA). According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, OFDMA both increases efficiency while reducing latencies.
Transmit beamforming boosts data rates and ups network capacity, while 1024-QAM (up from 256-QAM on Wi-Fi 5) allows for improved overall network throughput. Wi-Fi 6 even has some added functionality to improve battery life, including Target Wake Time (TWT). In the end, Wi-Fi 6 delivers up to a 4x uplift in capacity, a 40 percent increase in data throughput, and allows the scheduling of up to 12 streams at once.
Getting back to Qualcomm's offerings, at the bottom of the stack is the Networking Pro 400 Platform, which features quad-core ARM Cortex A53 SoC running at 1GHz. Peak speeds are rated at 1.7Gbps and the chipset can support up to 4 spatial streams. At the very top of the product stack is the Networking Pro 1200, which has a quad-core Cortex A53 with a clock speed of 2GHz. Peak speeds come in at 6Gbps, and spatial streams max out at 12. With the exception of the Networking Pro 400 Platform, Qualcomm Wi-Fi SON mesh networking is also supported.
We should soon start seeing routers and access points at varying price points taking advantage Qualcomm's quadruple-threat in the Wi-Fi 6 space.
Announced alongside the Networking Pro Platforms is Fast Connect 6800. This SoC is destined for Qualcomm's Snapdragon Mobile (smartphones) and Snapdragon Compute (Windows 10 PC) platforms. It brings all of the Wi-Fi 6 goodies to smartphones including 1024-QAM support, TWT, WPA3 and 2.4GHz/5GHz band support. Given the lower power profile of mobile devices, peak speeds are limited to 1.774Gbps with Fast Connect 6800. You'll also find support for the latest Bluetooth 5.1 protocol.
We'll likely see FastConnect 6800 in mobile clients running upcoming SoCs like the rumored Snapdragon 865 and next-generation laptops from major OEMs.
“Qualcomm Technologies has been at the leading edge of wireless innovation for decades, by virtue of our focused investment in research and development across various industries,” said Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies. “Today’s event and announcements represent a critical milestone in unlocking the massive potential of Wi-Fi 6 across every product segment we touch, and blazes a path toward the fullest implementation of Wi-Fi 6 technology.”