Qualcomm expands Wi-Fi SON, adds support for simultaneous use of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mesh

eero bookshelf (eero)
The home Wi-Fi system eero is among those that use Qualcomm Network solutions. (Image: eero)

Qualcomm Technologies certainly doesn’t want to get left out of the connected home, and it made a pair of announcements at CES 2017 designed to solidify its role in the Internet of Things (IoT) network space.

First, the Qualcomm Network IoT Connectivity platform will for the first time now ensure compatible and simultaneous use of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, CSRmesh connectivity and 802.15.4-based technologies across a network. Second, the company announced expanded capabilities for its previously announced Wi-Fi SON suite, with support for both Power-Line Communications (PLC) and/or Ethernet, expanded support for multihop network topologies and support for MIPS-based systems.

It’s all about making it easy to manage the devices in the home without forcing the homeowner to worry about it, according to Mark Grodzinsky, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies. Most people, after all, do not have an IT manager in the home, but as they accumulate more connected gadgets, there needs to be some way to manage them. The typical home now has about 20 connected devices—if you count TVs, phones, iPads, security cameras, access points and so on—and that’s expected to jump to 50 in the next three to five years, making the home look more like an enterprise with lots of connected devices in a small enclosed space, he said.

Qualcomm has actually been addressing this networking issue for quite some time, being first with 11ac Wave 2, for example, added Grodzinsky, who previously was VP of marketing at Wilocity, which Qualcomm purchased in 2014. There’s already a big effort to support distributed network devices such as the eero home WiFi system, Luma Surround WiFi system and Netgear Orbi Tri-band WiFi system, and at CES this week, others will be showing off new products like the Linksys Velop Whole Home Wi-Fi Solution, D-Link Covr, TP-Link Deco Whole-Home Wi-Fi system and ASUS HiveDot and HiveSpot. All of these use Qualcomm technology.

“We’re not a bunch of Wi-Fi purists around here,” Grodzinsky told FierceWirelessTech. “We think if you’ve got a powerline network or if you’ve got Ethernet on some of your devices, those are assets that you should absolutely be using to make the network more efficient, so by any means necessary, we want to give the most optimal network experience as we can, and if that includes some of these wireline products, so be it. We’ll have 2.4, 5 and 60 GHz, and that will be available for Wi-Fi and then PLC and Ethernet as well.”

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When you have multiple radios in close proximity in the same frequency band, interference becomes a concern, but Qualcomm has the technology and know-how for building radios in close frequency and proximity and making them work well together, he said: “It’s a nontrivial problem to solve, but it’s one that we have a lot of experience with.”

With Wi-Fi SON, the system will steer devices to the 2.4 or 5 GHz band, depending on circumstances. “We’re starting to integrate more wireless technologies and again apply that same thinking that we just want to create a seamless, consistent simplified experience across Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee, as well as PLC and Ethernet so no matter what device is connected, it’s a flawless experience,” he added.

“We’re always going to be on the cutting edge of technology, driving 11ac Wave 2 and [802.11]ax and ad and ay, but there’s a lot more focus that’s coming into usability and making sure that we’re not the bottleneck of the market,” he said. “When we’re kind of deploying these products into the market, we want to make sure that people don’t stop buying because they’re not sure how to make it work. We’ll handle that piece of it, we’re just going to make sure that all your products get on the network flawlessly and we create that seamless experience.”

Both the Qualcomm Network IoT Connectivity platform and expanded Qualcomm Wi-Fi SON features are available now as integrated offerings for network infrastructure devices like network routers and gateways, with the Qualcomm Network IoT Connectivity Platform also available via the Qualcomm Technologies IoT device and hub solutions portfolio.