Marvell unveils industry's first 802.11ac 4x4 MIMO SoC

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Marvell Semiconductor is touting its new Avastar 88W8864 system-on-chip (SoC) as the industry's first 802.11ac 4x4 MIMO solution. The new chip, which is currently sampling, offers a 1.3 Gbps peak data rate and is designed for use in enterprise and retail access points, service provider gateways, hotspots, video bridges and set-top boxes.

Marvell 88W8864 Chip

Marvell's 88W8864 chip offers a 1.3 Gbps peak data rate.

The 802.11ac solution, which works exclusively in the 5 GHz band, is designed to provide up to a 3x increase in Wi-Fi throughput compared to 802.11n and more than two times the power efficiency when processing high-speed loads. Early applications for 802.11ac include real-time video streaming and wireless back-up.

The 802.11ac standard will not officially be set till early in 2013, so early product shipments based on the draft standard are currently limited to retail access points. Enterprises and service providers will shift to 802.11ac devices only after the Wi-Fi Alliance has established its certification test plan so they can be assured of avoiding any interoperability issues, said Bart Giordano, director of marketing, wireless connectivity, at Marvell.

The company's new 802.11ac 4x4 SoC is designed for infrastructure devices, while an 802.11ac 2x2 combination radio chip, the Avastar 88W8897, which was introduced in June and features near field communications (NFC) and Bluetooth 4.0, targets the mobile computing space and fixed wireless video applications. But 802.11ac will migrate over the next couple of years to smaller devices such as smartphones, which are both sourcing and syncing HD video, Giordano told FierceBroadbandWireless.

"At CES, I guarantee you'll see televisions and similar type devices, and then over the next 18-24 months the rest of the market will follow, and at least at the high-end, the super phones, you'll absolutely see 802.11ac deployed there," said Giordano. Though Marvell has not made any product announcements regarding small mobile devices, "you can bet Marvell will be investing in ac for these 1x1 (MIMO) mobile-based products as well."

Both of Marvell's 802.11ac chip solutions include beamforming capabilities. Marvell's "implicit" beamforming technology works independently from the client implementation for beamforming. That means a performance advantage can be gained by using an access point with implicit beamforming to transmit to a client device without it, said Giordano.

Marvell claims its beamforming technology outperforms other digital signal processing techniques for range extension by at least six times and increases the battery life of any device connected to the 88W8864.

"With the release of the Marvell 802.11ac 4x4 chip, the company is bringing to market a low-power solution that offers a significant increase in Wi-Fi bandwidth capacity," said Will Strauss, president and principal analyst at Forward Concepts.

For more:
- see this Marvell release

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Broadcom execs say operators will dive deeply into 802.11ac
802.11ac ready to scream into the marketplace
IMS eyes 400 million 802.11ac devices by 2016
Chipset vendors prep 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology for big consumer push

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