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Qualcomm Reveals First 802.11ay Wi-Fi Chipsets

Qualcomm announced what it called the industry's first chipsets for the 802.11ay wireless protocol. Unlike existing protocols, which rely on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, 802.11ay uses a 60GHz band that promises to offer increased wireless capacity and speeds while also reducing latency. That could allow these new chipsets to offer significant performance improvements to VR headsets, Internet of Things products, and other devices.

These first chipsets arrived in pairs: Qualcomm said QCA6438 and QCA6428 are "for infrastructure and fixed wireless access" while QCA6421 and QCA6431 are "for mobile applications." The chipsets purportedly offer "wire-equivalent latencies" that Qualcomm believes will enable things like 4K streaming, "truly immersive wireless virtual and augmented reality experiences," and other "exciting gaming and entertainment experiences."

Not that 802.11ay will only be used in the home. Facebook plans to use the first pair of Qualcomm's chipsets, QCA6438 and QCA6428, for the Terragraph project it established in 2016. The companies announced in May that Terragraph wanted to use 802.11ay (and 802.11ad) to offer more reliable high-speed internet access to urban areas. They also claimed rolling out these networks would be significantly cheaper than installing fiber.

But those connections might not come without serious privacy implications. Qualcomm explained in its press release:

"Signature attributes of 60GHz Wi-Fi go far beyond high performance throughput, as Qualcomm Technologies’ new chipsets enable unique, always-on ambient Wi-Fi sensing capabilities, enabling devices to identify people, objects, movements and precise location without being affected by light conditions. Networking and mobile devices alike can take advantage of these new Wi-Fi sensing features to provide new and differentiated experiences to end users."

There's no doubt that collecting this information could enable unique experiences that people would like. So does letting third-party app developers scan your email. But it's not hard to guess why a company like Facebook, whose empire depends on its ability to collect and sell information about pretty much everyone who uses the internet, might want to popularize a network technology capable of gathering so much personal data.

Other companies, including Asus, have already expressed their interest in 60GHz wireless technologies. It's too appealing not to--as people start to expect better performance, whether it's via faster connections or improved battery life, upgrading to new wireless technologies will become increasingly critical. (We certainly wouldn't mind "wire-equivalent latencies" so we could stop running Ethernet cables to our gaming setup.)

Qualcomm said its new chipsets are available now, which means products bearing them shouldn't take too long to arrive. That just leaves one important question: How will the Wi-Fi Alliance brand 802.11ay? The group announced earlier this month that various wireless protocols would soon be branded as Wi-Fi 5, 6, and so on to help people differentiate between them. Here's to hoping 802.11ay gets the same treatment; it's going to be hard to convince people it's significantly better than other protocols if they can't figure out what they're working with in the first place.

  • kcscouler
    How do they expect this to work practically at all? A router in every room? Deadly power microwave rays?

    https://phorgyphynance.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/60-ghz-wireless-a-reality-check/
    Reply
  • bit_user
    21406410 said:
    But it's not hard to guess why a company like Facebook, whose empire depends on its ability to collect and sell information about pretty much everyone who uses the internet, might want to popularize a network technology capable of gathering so much personal data.
    I don't think the enhanced localization is their primary reason for doing it, but I do think we need to ask whether FB can be trusted to use this capability responsibly.
    Reply
  • Kewlx25
    21406488 said:
    How do they expect this to work practically at all? A router in every room? Deadly power microwave rays?

    https://phorgyphynance.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/60-ghz-wireless-a-reality-check/


    Your link is useful, pointing out the major line of sight issue that 60ghz has, but "deadly"? Every square meter/yard of matter, but it your wall or another person, emits about 400 watts of 300ghz-400thz radiation. And you're worried about 1 watt of 60ghz?
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    21406679 said:
    I don't think the enhanced localization is their primary reason for doing it, but I do think we need to ask whether FB can be trusted to use this capability responsibly.

    Why bother asking? All of us already know the answer to that question.

    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    21406488 said:
    How do they expect this to work practically at all? A router in every room? Deadly power microwave rays?

    https://phorgyphynance.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/60-ghz-wireless-a-reality-check/

    As I understand it 802.11ay is like a MIMO version of 802.11ad (WiGig), so 60GHz does work. Still, I think the answer to both of your questions is: yes. The "infrastructure and fixed wireless access" chipsets will likely have high power (though probably not deadly, LOL) and the "mobile applications" chipsets will require an access point in every room.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    21406730 said:
    it your wall or another person, emits about 400 watts of 300ghz-400thz radiation.
    LOL, wut?
    Reply
  • bit_user
    21406778 said:
    Why bother asking? All of us already know the answer to that question.
    My point was that I think the author had the causality wrong, yet the concern is still valid.
    Reply
  • totalinsanity4
    21407374 said:
    21406730 said:
    it your wall or another person, emits about 400 watts of 300ghz-400thz radiation.
    LOL, wut?
    Pretty sure he's referring to visible light
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    21406730 said:
    21406488 said:
    How do they expect this to work practically at all? A router in every room? Deadly power microwave rays?

    https://phorgyphynance.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/60-ghz-wireless-a-reality-check/


    Your link is useful, pointing out the major line of sight issue that 60ghz has, but "deadly"? Every square meter/yard of matter, but it your wall or another person, emits about 400 watts of 300ghz-400thz radiation. And you're worried about 1 watt of 60ghz?
    I think he was (facetiously) referring to the possibility of cranking up the wifi signal power to dangerous levels to try to overcome the reduced penetration that 60 GHz gets.

    Comparing (mostly infrared) blackbody radiation to microwave radiation doesn't make sense in this context IMO, different wavelengths interact differently with the body.
    Reply
  • Xajel
    So just for anyone who is wondering (like me), what's the difference between 802.11ay and the older 802.11ad. Both are identical as 802.11ay is based on 802.11ad, but it brings more improvements to increase the bandwidth, so just an improved version of ad.

    Upcoming standards:
    802.11ax: uses the same 2.4GHz & 5.0GHz bands with future expandability to a wider range of 1GHz to 7GHz bands, called WiFi 6, it should replace the current b, n & ac. And provide higher bandwidth, CES 2018 demos showed maximum of 11Gbps. Estimated public release is 2019.

    802.11ah: Uses lower band of 900MHz, named WiFi HaLow, designed to have an extended range & more penetration of obstacles, and also have a low power design. making it compete against Bluetooth, it's designed mainly for IoT, sensors and smart homes appliances. Maximum bandwidth is about 348Mbps. Specification was published in 2017 but there's still no commercial chipsets that support it.

    802.11af: Uses even lower band it uses the licensed UHF and VHF TV bands, the main goal is again more penetration, It offers more bandwidth than 802.11ah with a maximum of 569Mbps. Still no available product as it depends on the 802.11ah chipsets also. Range is very long to 1KM. Duo to it's use of licensed band, there's very strict regulation for it's adoption and uses.

    802.11ad: The first standard that is based on the 60GHz band, allows higher bandwidth of 6.7Gbps per stream, but at much much lower distance. Has a very low penetration power even for open line of sight, full bandwidth only possible at 3.3m (10ft) range. These two factors limited the adaptation of this standard even though it was finalised since 2012.

    802.11ay: An improvement of 802.11ad, using the same 60GHz band with more technologies to allow higher bandwidth at 20Gbps per stream and provide a longer range, indoor range is 10m (33ft), and outdoor range is 100m (328ft). Estimated release was in 2017 but was pushed to 2019.
    Reply