Qualcomm Atheros Hy-Fi powers new Wi-Fi range extender

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Atheros' hybrid chipset that combines Wi-Fi and HomePlug powerline communication (PLC) technologies is enabling a new segment of Wi-Fi range extenders based on the IEEE P1905.1 standard.

The company's hybrid chipset is hitting the consumer market via Berlin-based AVM's new Fritz! Powerline 546E device, which combines HomePlug PLC, Wi-Fi, two Ethernet connections and an intelligent power socket to provide up to 500 Mbps of powerline communications performance along with home automation, energy management and control capabilities.

The Fritz! Powerline 546E device, which will be sold in Europe, can be plugged into any home outlet. "It uses the powerline network to create a backbone to your router and then bring Wi-Fi coverage to the room or multiple rooms where you need to solve a coverage problem. What we were looking for was a way to make a very seamless, very easy-to-use, plug-and-play experience for the consumer, and we felt the only way to do that was to combine powerline and Wi-Fi vs. just taking a pure Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi repeater approach," John Marcolini, Qualcomm Atheros senior director of product management, told FierceBroadbandWireless.

Marcolini said other vendors will soon unveil similar products using Qualcomm's Hy-Fi hybrid-networking technology in different geographies, including North America

Qualcomm Atheros' Hy-Fi products comply with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) P1905.1 draft standard, which is aimed at driving industry interoperability of products that leverage combinations of wireless and wireline technologies, including Wi-Fi, HomePlug powerline, Ethernet or Multimedia over Coax (MoCA).

Though range extenders have been used for years to broaden Wi-Fi footprints, the usefulness of those devices is hindered by the fact that they need to be within Wi-Fi range in order to pick up a signal and extend it. The Qualcomm Atheros' hybrid networking chipset, which includes the AR9341 Wi-Fi and AR7420 HomePlug powerline chips, enables plug-and-play expansion of a home Wi-Fi network via the powerline.

Marcolini noted that, in addition to extending Wi-Fi coverage, AVM's 546E also includes an integrated power socket, which enables consumers to access and control appliances using up to 16 amps via their smartphone, tablet or other network connected computing device. Consumers can also use the device to monitor and control energy use by individual devices.

The arrival of more devices employing 5 GHz Wi-Fi, which delivers less range than 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, will drive the need for products that can extend the Wi-Fi footprint, said Marcolini. For example, Wi-Fi users who are used to the range they got from older 2.4 GHz networks will find that they need range extenders with 5 GHz simply to cover the same size area.

"As more mobile devices and tablets and other types of client devices roll out that support 5GHz, whether that's 802.11n or 802.11ac, the need for range extension from an access point that's maybe in the basement or in an office is going to grow," he said.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm Atheros release

Related articles:
Qualcomm snaps up small cell firm DesignArt Networks
Rumor mill: Qualcomm buying Israeli small cell player
Qualcomm targets TVs, PCs in bid to expand beyond phones
Chipset vendors prep 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology for big consumer push
HomePlug Powerline Alliance endorses IEEE's hybrid home networking standard