Qualcomm Atheros Introduces 802.11ac Wireless Module for Snapdragon S4 Devices

In an announcement clearly geared up for this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Qualcomm Atheros [NASDAQ:QCOM] has announced a new wireless module which is capable of delivering gigabit capable wireless speeds via the 802.11ac wireless protocols. The WCN3680 is a mobile 1×1 802.11ac combo Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM chip that is designed to be a companion to Qualcomm’s 28nm Snapdragon S4 SoCs based on the Krait architecture.

The current targeted processors are Qualcomm’s MSM8960 28nm dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor as well as the APQ8064, which will be Qualcomm’s quad-core processor also based on the krait cpu architecture. The WCN3680 is poised to easily replace Qualcomm Atheros’ current 802.11n offerings like the WCN3660 which is pin-compatible with the 802.11ac WCN3680. This will make the switch-over for other customers who may be using the previous generation WCN3660. The 802.11ac WCN3680 is currently capable of speeds up to 433 Mbit/s when used with the S4 SoC which is currently a little under half of what 802.11ac is capable of theoretically delivering. Since we’re in the beginning stages of 802.11 hardware development, we are likely to see slower speeds initially with true gigabit wireless connectivity being available in the future.

Qualcomm Atheros will also make these chips available for computing and consumer electronics, enabling laptops to utilize multiple-streams of 802.11ac. They will offer a QCA9860 (3-stream) and QCA9862 (2-stream) bot featuring 802.11ac/a/b/g/n (yes, that’s a lot of backwards compatibility) and Bluetooth 4.0 combo chips. These chips will support up to 1.3Gbps PHY rates and feature a SoC design in order to reduce CPU load and improve overall battery life of devices utilizing these chips over legacy Wi-Fi.

In consumer electronics, there is a strong likelihood that we will see the aforementioned chips in smart tvs as well as other smart and connected devices. These 802.11 capable combo chips and modules will enable Qualcomm’s vision of a smart home through easily and quickly connected networks. By pushing 802.11ac through multiple channels Qualcomm is enabling increased speeds across users’ networks as well as reduced latency to improve the connected home experience to levels yet to be experienced.

For home and enterprise networking, Qualcomm Atheros has announced four new products capable of transfer rates up to 1.3Gbps. They will be launching two and three stream dual-band 802.11ac modules which will be connected through PCIe. These new chips will target next-generation dual-band, dual-concurrent wireless access points, routers, and gateways. These new chips also feature a new, higher level of integration which reduces external components to the previous generation of 802.11n 3×3 solutions to enhance overall ease of implementation through fewer requirements on design and BOM. The QCA9880 3×3 and QCA9882 2×2 chips will be for 802.11ac/a/b/g/n home networking, while the QCA9890 3×3 and QCA9892 802.11ac/a/b/g/n chips will be used for enterprise networking and will have enhanced in-building location and spectral sensing capabilities.

Qualcomm Atheros will be demonstrating the WCN3680 capabilities next week at their booth at MWC in Barcelona