Qualcomm introduces 11ax-ready WCN3998 for smartphones

Wi-Fi (Pixabay)
In advance of full standardization and certification, Qualcomm introduced an 802.11ax-ready solution for smartphones, tablets and notebooks. (Pixabay)

It’s going to be a while before the 802.11ax standard is ready for prime time, but in the meantime, Qualcomm is delivering the 802.11ax-ready WCN3998 for smartphones and computing devices—just in time to show it off at Mobile World Congress 2018.

While 802.11ax awaits full standardization and certification, Qualcomm is prepared to sample the WCN3998 by the second quarter of this year. Every OEM operates on their own production timetables, but it’s possible that solutions using it could be built by the second part of this year. For sure, a high percentage of solutions are expected to be shipping with it by early 2019, according to Dino Bekis, VP and GM, Mobile/Compute Connectivity at Qualcomm Technologies.

Given the crush of services that are using unlicensed spectrum bands, it’s no wonder that people are eager to get the benefits of 802.11ax, the next generation of Wi-Fi. Expectations call for the draft specification to be approved later this year and for certification of products to start in the latter part of 2019.

The key is how to address real-world challenges in the absence of a fully ratified 11ax standard while bridging the gap between 11ac Wave 2 and the emerging 11ax standard.

The WCN3998 has four main features, according to Bekis. First, it offers support for 8x8 sounding with two times total capacity improvement over solutions that might only use a 4-stream sounding capability.

Second, it’s taking advantage of a target wake-up time feature that will allow the device to consume up to 67% lower energy. Third, all of the advanced features are supported by WPA3, the latest and most advanced security protocol announced by the Wi-Fi Alliance. And fourth, it supports Bluetooth 5.0 and possible enhancements in the Bluetooth standard for advanced audio quality: “The voice UI has really become the desired interface for people to use,” Bekis said.

Irvind Ghai, VP of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, said in the last few weeks and months, there’s been a lot of traction around 802.11ax-draft based products. Last year, Korea’s SK Telecom reportedly was preparing to launch 802.11ax-based Wi-Fi services, and KDDI is expected to offer draft 11ax-based home gateways starting in March.  

“It’s really the first time where you’ve seen carriers actually be more aggressive in taking product to market versus the retail guys,” Ghai said. The good thing is because carrier requirements are much more stringent, that’s accelerating the quality of the solution, he added.

Editor's Note: Story updated to reflect correct version of Bluetooth standard.