Broadcom unveils MAX, better Wi-Fi based on 802.11ax

cell phone stadium (Pixabay)
According to Extreme Networks, 11.8 Terabytes of data was generated at this year's Super Bowl by fans posting video, updating status and streaming live from the stadium.

Broadcom announced what it’s calling the industry’s first family of connectivity solutions using the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax, and engineers expect a fairly quick ramp-up in terms of products that are actually available with the new tech.

Dubbed Max WiFi, with a play on the moniker,  Broadcom’s set of solutions include the BCM43684, a chip targeted for the residential Wi-Fi market; the BCM43694 optimized for use in enterprise access points; and the BCM4375, a smartphone combo chip.  All of them feature OFDMA and MU-MIMO, among other things.

Broadcom is sampling them to customers now in retail, enterprise and smartphone, service provider and carrier segments. Expectations call for any new products in 2018 to be based on 802.11ax. Broadcom already has a bevy of customers teed up, with support from everyone from Microsoft to ASUS.

802.11ax is the first major generation of Wi-Fi to come out since 2012 and it’s also the first generation of Wi-Fi designed to meet the needs of how consumers use social media these days. For a long time, the focus was on downloads. But customer behavior is changing and now a good portion are using social media like Facebook Live, Facetime and Skype, where they're not only consuming but creating content like high-resolution video that ends up getting shared, said Vijay Nagarajan, senior director, mobile wireless connectivity at Broadcom.

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In fact, Broadcom has seen both anecdotal and actual data from partners where as soon as a singer or performer takes the stage, for example, the amount of traffic getting uploaded is at least or more than the amount that’s being downloaded, he told FierceWirelessTech. Broadcom says its Max WiFi offers six times faster upload speeds, four times faster download speeds, four times better coverage and seven times better battery life than similar Wi-Fi solutions on the market today that use 802.11ac.

While more content is getting uploaded, more devices are jumping on the networks as well, and even more of that will happen with the growing IoT. Estimates say the typical family of four will have an average of 50 connected devices in their home by 2022.

While 802.11ax represents the sixth generation of the Wi-Fi standard, Nagarajan also said he believes Wi-Fi is complementary to the cellular world’s 5G. There have been calls for more cooperation between IEEE and 3GPP; Broadcom has folks participating in both groups and works to ensure there is close compatibility, he said, noting that increasingly, it’s about the consumer getting access to data independent of the physical wireless standard.

Specifically with OFDMA, Max WiFi supports uplink and downlink Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access technology, which is the fundamental building block of 802.11ax. OFDMA significantly increases efficiency and capacity of the wireless network as several devices communicate concurrently in portions of the frequency spectrum allocated proportional to their needs, Broadcom said. It also enables fine grain quality of service for complex quadruple play applications via the implementation of sophisticated downlink and uplink scheduling.

Earlier this year, Qualcomm announced its 802.11ax portfolio, supplying the IPQ8074 system-on-a-chip (SoC) for network infrastructure and the QCA6290 solution for client devices.