Quantenna Chips in With 1 Gig Wi-Fi

Quantenna Communications is hitting the gas with a “wave 2” 802.11ac chip for gateways and other home networking devices that, it claims, can support usable throughputs of up to 1.3 Gbps while still offering consistent speeds when signals are required to blast through walls and other obstructions.

Achieving such speeds would depend on how close the user is the access point and determined by other network conditions, but the actual max throughputs aren’t far off the chip’s Physical Layer throughput of 1.7 Gbps, said company CEO Sam Heidari.

Achieving speeds of 1 Gbps or more in the home with 802.11ac can achieve a couple of important things. For one, it would eliminate potential bottlenecks by matching the speed of the home network with the speeds entering the home via the access network. And, for service providers that implement it in set-tops and gateways, 802.11ac gives them a speedy, in-home wireless backbone capable of distributing high-definition video and other bandwidth-intensive services and apps to tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles and other Wi-Fi-capable consumer electronics devices.

802.11ac is also considered a complement to and, if its performance proves to be reliable enough, a possible replacement for wireline home networking technologies. In the world of cable, a popular one is Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), a platform that delivers video and other data over the home’s coax network at speeds up to 800 Mbps.  MoCA isn’t supported on many devices outside of the set-top and gateway category, but bridges outfitted with Wi-Fi could help to expand the range of the home’s wireless network.

Heidari would not go as far as to say that 802.11ac is poised to replace MoCA, but said “Wi-Fi is going to be a core, central part” of any home network. “The cable community is taking a great interest in Wi-Fi.”

Among recent examples, Comcast introduced a DOCSIS 3.0-powered wireless gateway made by Cisco that uses 802.11n to reach in-home speeds of 270 Mbps, and devices supporting 802.11ac are on the roadmap.

Most of the known service providers that utilize Quantenna’s previous generation chips are telcos based in Europe, and include Telefónica, Swisscom, and France Telecom, among others. Heidari said he expects that service provider figure to rise to more than a dozen as Quantenna's technology expands more broadly into North America and other regions. He said cable operators are conducting field tests with Quantenna’s latest chips, but declined to name them.  

The QSR1000 is sampling now, and Heidari expects volume shipments to kick in by the end of the second quarter or the start of the third quarter of 2013. It’s not disclosing pricing.

Celeno Communications, Qualcomm Atheros and Broadcom are among a handful of players that are competing with Quantenna, which landed a $79 million round last April. Liberty Global, for example, is using Celeno’s Wi-Fi silicon in its IP-capable Horizon gateway.