Today's fastest 802.11ac routers deliver throughput speeds on par with hardwired gigabit-ethernet connections. That might seem slow by next year, when Quantenna Communications launches its new Wi-Fi chipset.
Most wireless chipsets on the consumer market today can send and receive three spatial data streams simultaneously (these are known as 3x3 MIMO chipsets). Current 3x3 802.11ac routers, such as the new Linksys WRT-1900AC, deliver data throughput up to 1.3Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band. Asus announced at CES that its upcoming RT-AC87U router, based on Quantenna's existing QSR1000 4x4 MIMO chipset, will deliver throughput up to 1.7Gbps. Today, Quantenna announced that it's working on an 8x8 MIMO chipset that will deliver throughput of an astounding 10 gigabits per second when it ships in 2015.
The new chipset supports the popular 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, and Quantenna says it will interoperate with all older versions of that standard (802.11a/b/g and n). It's based on MU-MIMO technology (multi-user MIMO). MIMO technology (the acronym stands for multiple input/multiple output) sends and receives data streams using multiple antennas on one transmitter and multiple antennas on one receiver. Multi-user MIMO can transmit to a number of devices at once, leveraging the antennas on a host of independent access points. The chipset will also deliver adaptive beam forming, in which the transmitter and receiver analyze the signals they exchange in order to ascertain the optimal path and to reject spurious signals.
Quantenna's solution will bond multiple channels on the 5GHz frequency band to achieve a single channel that's 160MHz wide (current 802.11ac routers use channel bonding to deliver 80MHz of bandwidth). While it's true that there are many more non-overlapping channels at 5GHz than there on the 2.4GHz band, bonding 5GHz channels to achieve 160MHz of bandwidth will leave just two non-overlapping channels (in North America, at least; different countries have different channel allocations).
Quantenna says it expects its chipset will be used in a wide range of applications, including enterprise and consumer networking, as well as in ISP infrastructure (think outdoor applications). Quantenna had previously announced that home-security provider Vivint is using Quantenna's 4x4 chipsets in the rollout of its 50Mbps home Internet service (Vivint has also made a strategic investment in Quentenna).
But don't expect to find the hardware in future smartphones or tablets, the company says it has no plans to develop an 8x8 chipset for battery-powered devices, nor will it be available in USB Wi-Fi adapters. That makes it sound as though the new part will be limited to routers, PCIe cards, bridges, and notebook and desktop motherboards.