802.11ad clients

Qualcomm have announced the Asus ZenFone 4 Pro will be the world’s first commercial smartphone to have 802.11ad. Asus also mention the 802.11ad capability.

There have been a few 802.11ad capable ‘prosumer routers’ available for a while, by Asus Netgear and TP-Link, so their makers must be pleased that finally users might seek them out based on that capability.

The high speed of 802.11ad makes it spectrum and time efficient, because to move an amount of data the radio can be off more of the time than a slower radio. Firstly, this means it will not occupy the spectrum (a finite resource) as much of the time. Secondly, it could potentially consume less power – always a good thing, especially for battery powered devices like smartphones.

Perhaps more interestingly, 802.11ad has an inherently short range. For a wireless personal area network (WPAN) this is a good thing. Obviously a WPAN only needs a short range, and if signals travel further than required they again reduce spectrum efficiency, because they occupy spectrum in areas where other WPANs could use it.

WiGig in mobile devices

Qualcomm has acquired Wilocity, a maker of chipsets for the 60 GHz wireless band – IEEE 802.11ad. Qualcomm chipsets for mobile devices are to be enabled in this band, so we should see rapid growth of 60 GHz (WiGig) inclusion in mobile devices.

Short range high throughput and out of band with existing WiFi, WiGig creates new opportunities. WiGig data transport from cheap low power small infrastructure equipment (see our thinking on Myrmidon access points) will be a great enabler for ubiquitous high throughput wireless connectivity. As consumer devices provide a rapid rollout of endpoints for WiGig so the ROI for this kind of access point becomes much better. Expect to see this new kind of access point coming to market in the short to medium term. A network built using them will make a form of ‘fog computing’ more viable, because high bandwidth wireless connectivity to proximate processing and storage services will have significant advantages over longer more contended network paths.

Dual band radios in mobile devices have been around for some time, and tri-band radios will be arriving soon. At some point it will become feasible to provide two or three concurrent radios in mobile devices with the obvious associated advantages. The question is when will such radio arrays arrive? Power consumption is probably the main constraint for this kind of connectivity. Battery technology is subject to intense research and we should expect impressive improvements to come to market soon. Nonetheless, concurrent multi-radio solutions need a rapid way to bring radios in and out of service to reduce power consumption.