While wireless technologies have continued to improve in bandwidth, distance, and resilience against interference, most businesses and general consumers haven’t yet upgraded to Wi-Fi 6, last year’s sequel to the older, popular 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) standard. That’s probably for the best, as chipmakers are now moving to Wi-Fi 6E, a superior, recently approved update, and Qualcomm is ready with new device and router solutions that promise “VR-class low latency” and the fastest Wi-Fi speeds consumers have seen.
Today, Qualcomm is announcing the FastConnect 6900 and 6700, device-ready wireless systems that include both Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 for maximum wireless performance and power efficiency. While FastConnect 6700 offers a peak Wi-Fi speed of 3 gigabits per second (Gbps), the higher-end 6900 tops out at 3.6Gbps, using four-stream dual-band simultaneous transmitting and 6GHz multi-band capabilities. Those numbers are faster than the 2- to 2.63Gbps peak Broadcom is claiming for its competing BCM4389, and Qualcomm is promising under 3-millisecond latency — enough to support cable-free head-mounted displays for VR — with up to eight times better latency reduction in Wi-Fi-congested environments.
It’s hard to overstate how important Wi-Fi 6E is likely to be for offices, retail spaces, and densely populated living spaces such as apartments. For the first time in decades, the new standard opens additional 6GHz radio spectrum to Wi-Fi, the equivalent of adding a giant, empty new highway immediately next to existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz roads. Between extra lanes and more modern infrastructure, users will be able to send data faster and with greater responsiveness, letting newer devices both avoid and decrease congestion on the older roads. If you’re working from home, you’ll get superb wireless performance regardless of signal competition from your neighbors; offices and stores will be able to use next-generation VR headsets and holographic displays without cables or network hiccups.
There’s a big year-over-year performance difference compared with the prior FastConnect 6800, which was used in LG’s V60 and Xiaomi’s Mi 10/Pro, among other devices. In addition to nearly or fully doubling the prior peak Wi-Fi speed of 1.8Gbps, FastConnect 6700 and 6900 support Bluetooth 5.2 with LE Audio, the new high-efficiency audio standard that enables multi-point connectivity and open, broadcast-style streaming. Two Bluetooth-specific antennas are included to improve both reliability and range, while the LE Audio standard delivers a stronger combination of low power consumption and high sonic fidelity than before. Qualcomm notes that the new systems are built using a 14-nanometer process, delivering up to 50% better power efficiency than prior-generation solutions.
On the router side, Qualcomm is also introducing four new Wi-Fi 6E Networking Pro platforms, each including support for Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 — capable of operating simultaneously on 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHZ frequency bands. Depending on the performance level an OEM chooses, it can offer anything from a business- or campus-scale enterprise access point to a home mesh Wi-Fi network, with support for up to 2,000 simultaneous clients.
All four of the Networking Pro platforms use quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processors, but they differ in maximum throughput. With the highest-end 1610 platform, clients can collectively reach up to 10.8Gbps of data usage, twice the peak of the lowest-end 610 platform. However, the peak single device-to-device transfer speed is 2.4Gbps, which Qualcomm achieves using an especially dense (4,096 QAM) implementation of Wi-Fi 6E.
The four platforms are as follows:
- Networking Pro 1610 (2.2GHz A53): Up to 16 streams, 10.8Gbps peak total speed
- Networking Pro 1210 (2.2GHz A53): Up to 12 streams, 8.4Gbps peak total speed
- Networking Pro 810 (1.8GHz A53): Up to 8 streams, 6.6Gbps peak total speed
- Networking Pro 610 (1.8GHz A53): Up to 6 streams, 5.4Gbps peak total speed
Qualcomm is shipping the Networking Pro platforms now, and expects them to be commercially available in OEM products this year. The FastConnect 6900 and 6700 are sampling now to OEMs and are expected to appear in devices starting in the second half of 2020.