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Wi-Fi Blasts Ahead with 11ac Wave 2 Chipsets

  • November 2014
  • -
  • EJL Wireless Research LLC
  • -
  • 132 pages

This report provides a comprehensive technical analysis for 802.11ac wave 2 (W2) technology as compared with wave 1 (W1) technology and 802.11n. A detailed access point semiconductor chipset analysis is provided for all vendors.


Detailed analysis of 802.11ac standards
Detailed 802.11ac WiFi access point system block diagrams
Top 9 access point chipset vendor analysis
Broadcom Corporation
Celeno Communications
Intel Corporation
Marvell Technology
MediaTek Inc.
Qualcomm Technology
Quantenna Communications
Realtek Semiconductor
Redpine Signals

Over the next six months, Access Point OEMs (enterprise, carrier and consumer home gateway) will be faced with making a strategic chipset supplier decision for their IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2 products. This EJL Wireless Research Report is intended to facilitate that critical decision-making process with the latest detailed information on the leading 802.11ac radios and Wi-Fi networking processors.
This report is also intended to provide detailed analysis designed to assist wireless network professionals in anticipating and planning for the next generation of 802.11ac Wave 2 compliant multi-gigabit Wi-Fi technology and capability, at both the chipset level and the system (i.e., infrastructure WLAN equipment) level. From a technology business perspective, understanding 802.11ac future trends is vitally important, as approximately 1 billion 11ac devices will be in use by the end of 2015.

Promise of Gigabit Wi-Fi

Consumer client devices and access points (both consumer broadband gateways and enterprise-class / carrier-class) using 11ac Wave 2 technology promise nearly instantaneous (very low latency) data transfers with high Quality of Experience / Quality of Service. They will be capable of supporting multiple ultra high definition streaming video flows, including UHD “telepresence” video conferencing flows, as well as hundreds of clients per AP. Additionally, 11ac Wave 2 client devices and access points will offer increasingly robust and comprehensive wireless plus wired security as well as content-aware traffic engineering features. This report will enable networking professionals to anticipate these new capabilities as well as potential 11ac Wave 2 deployment challenges.

Complex System Design Risks

Semiconductor companies who can supply both Wi-Fi radios and companion digital System-on-Chip (SoC) processors plus the software and system reference designs are at an enormous advantage over microchip companies who can only supply the digital SoC processor. Wi-Fi systems, such as access points and wireless broadband gateways, are extremely complex hardware (requiring digital, RF and mixed-signal integrated circuits) and embedded software systems. The overwhelming majority of WLAN equipment OEMs are uninterested in attempting to integrate these complex systems using radios and processors from different suppliers.

Table Of Contents

Wi-Fi Blasts Ahead with 11ac Wave 2 Chipsets
Brief Technical Overview of Gigabit Wi-Fi 20
The 802.11g Physical Layer - Wireless Innovation 20
802.11n Physical Layer - Forward-Looking Innovation 22
802.11n Media Access Control Sublayer - Efficiency Reigns 26
Familiar 802.11n Enabled Devices - Beginning of the Boom 26
IEEE 802.11-2012 - Major Milestone for Wi-Fi 26
802.11ac W1 and W2 Capabilities - All About the PHY 27
802.11ac Physical Layer - More Better 27
802.11ac Media Access Control Layer - Optimized 34
5 GHz Band Plan - More Spectrum Opening Up 34
Power Levels for Wi-Fi - Going Up 34
Coexistence and Compatibility Mechanisms in 802.11ac - Play Nice 36
Summary - 802.11n and 802.11ac Differences 36
Rate at Range - Convergence at 100 Meters 37
Broadcom Corporation's Wi-Fi Products 42
Broadcom Access Point Chipsets 42
Broadcom Access Point Radios 42
Broadcom Wi-Fi Networking Processors 48
Broadcom Mobile Device Radios 53
Broadcom Wi-Fi Product Summary 55
Celeno Communications Wi-Fi Products 57
Celeno Access Point Radios 58
Celeno Wi-Fi Product Summary 60
Intel Corporation's Wi-Fi Products 61
Intel Mobile Device Radios 61
Intel Wi-Fi Product Summary 64
Marvell Technology Group's Wi-Fi Products 65
Marvell Access Point Radios 65
Marvell Wi-Fi Networking Processors 67
Marvell Mobile Device Radios 72
Marvell Wi-Fi Product Summary 73
MediaTek Inc.'s Wi-Fi Products 74
MediaTek Access Point Radios 74
MediaTek Wi-Fi Networking Processors 77
MediaTek Wi-Fi Product Summary 84
Qualcomm Technology Inc.'s Wi-Fi Products 85
Qualcomm Access Point Radios 85
Qualcomm Wi-Fi Networking Processors 89
Qualcomm Mobile Device Radios 95
Qualcomm Wi-Fi Product Summary 96
Quantenna Communications, Inc.'s Wi-Fi Products 97
Quantenna Access Point Radios 98
Quantenna Wi-Fi Product Summary 101
Realtek Semiconductor Corp.'s Wi-Fi Products 102
Realtek Access Point Radios 102
Realtek Wi-Fi Networking Processors 105
Realtek Wi-Fi Product Summary 110
Redpine Signals' Wi-Fi Products 111
Redpine Signals Access Point Radios 111
Redpine Signals Mobile Device Radios 114
Redpine Signals Wi-Fi Product Summary 115


Table 1: Best-in-Class Wi-Fi Radios from Nine Leadership Suppliers 9
Table 2: Best-In-Class Wi-Fi SoCs from Five Leadership Suppliers 11
Table 3: 802.11n MCS Index Numbers 25
Table 4: 802.11ac Single Spatial Stream MCS Index Numbers 31
Table 5: Maximum Spectral Efficiency of Wi-Fi Standards 33
Table 6: Primary Differences Between the 11n and 11ac Standards 37
Table 7: Broadcom BCM43462 Features 47
Table 8: Broadcom StrataGX BCM58625 Features 51
Table 9: Celeno CL2340 Features 59
Table 10: Intel Wireless AC7260 Features 63
Table 11: Marvell Avastar 88W8864 Features 66
Table 12: Marvell ARMADA 385 88F6828 Features 70
Table 13: MediaTek MT7612E Features 76
Table 14: MediaTek MT7621A Features 81
Table 15: Qualcomm VIVE QCA9990 Features 88
Table 16: Qualcomm Internet Processor IPQ8064 Features 92
Table 17: Quantenna QSR1000 Features 99
Table 18: Realtek RTL8813 Features 104
Table 19: Realtek RTL8197D Features 106
Table 20: Redpine Signals RS9333 Features 113


Exhibit 1: Global IP Traffic by Local Access Technology 5
Exhibit 2: Typical 2015 802.11ac Wi-Fi Access Point Top-Level System Diagram 15
Exhibit 3: Typical RF Front-End Functional Diagram 16
Exhibit 4: Typical 11n/ac Radio (1x1:1 Slice) 2.4 or 5 GHz Functional Diagram 17
Exhibit 5: Typical 802.11ac Wi-Fi Networking System-on-Chip Processor Functional Diagram 18
Exhibit 6: Frequency Domain View - OFDM Waveform with Orthogonal Subcarriers 21
Exhibit 7: Simplified 802.11g OFDM Transmitter 21
Exhibit 8: Simplified 802.11g OFDM Receiver 22
Exhibit 9: 802.11b/g/n Channel Spacing 23
Exhibit 10: 64-QAM and 256-QAM Constellation Mappings 30
Exhibit 11: 5 GHz Wi-Fi Channelization and Power Levels 35
Exhibit 12: Simulated Downlink Rate at Range for 802.11n, 802.11ac W1 and W2 (AP -> Client) 38
Exhibit 13: Broadcom's XStream 802.11ac System Architecture 45
Exhibit 14: Marvell ARMADA XP MV78260 System Diagram 68
Exhibit 15: Marvell 88W8797 802.11n Radio 73
Exhibit 16: MediaTek MT7620 Block Diagram 78
Exhibit 17: Redpine Signals NetCombo RS9333 Block Diagram 114

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