Qualcomm just released a new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip that aims to ease that congestion using new technologies in Wi-Fi 6 at Mobile World Congress.
“We can turn the 2.4GHz wasteland into usable spectrum,” said Dino Bekis, the head of Qualcomm’s mobile and compute connectivity group.
The main band used for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks, 2.4GHz, is insanely congested. That slows down a lot of home and public network connections.
The new QCA6390’s Wi-Fi 6 implementation uses a new form of encoding (for Wi-Fi) called OFDMA with 1024QAM, which “allows for more clients to operate simultaneously with less on-air time,” Bekis said. With each Wi-Fi device hogging the airwaves for fewer milliseconds, more devices can share each of 2.4GHz’s three clear channels.
The QCA6390’s Wi-fi 6 implementation exceeds the “Wi-Fi 6-ready” WCN3998 integrated into Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipset, which is now appearing in flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10, Qualcomm said. That means QCA6390-based phones will have 1.5 times the Wi-Fi range of WCN3998-based devices when hooked up to a Wi-Fi 6 router.
“We gain 20 meters in an open area, or going through three walls,” Bekis said.
That better encoding and range translates into better speed. With 5G connections delivering up to 2Gbps to phones and home modems, we’re going to see Wi-Fi routers becoming the bottleneck in the 5G world. The QCA6390 has up to 1.8Gbps throughput, as compared to 867Mbps on the WCN3998, making it possible to translate a 5G link to Wi-Fi and use all of its bandwidth.
On the Bluetooth side, the new AptX Adaptive codec in both the 3998 and 6390 can balance sound quality and low latency better than previous codecs, making it easier to do video lip sync and virtual reality over a Bluetooth link. Unlike the 3998, the new chip will also support Bluetooth 6.0 when it comes out, Qualcomm said.
Qualcomm’s chip releases are staggered. The Snapdragon 855, its brand-new flagship phone chipset, includes last year’s Wi-Fi solution, which means the QCA6390 will probably go into next year’s Snapdragon chipsets. Phone makers could also add the new chip separately this year, although that will incur an extra cost.