Qualcomm 60GHz 802.11ay Wi-Fi Chips Bring 5G Speeds With Wire-Equivalent Latency

Qualcomm on Tuesday announced a new family of 60GHz 802.11ay Wi-Fi chipsets that promise to significantly improve wireless performance. Raw speed is part of the deal, with 802.11ay delivering 10+ gigabit-per-second (Gbps) network speeds, but Qualcomm is also claiming latency on the level of a wired connection.

It's a somewhat confusing addition to the wireless space with the Wi-Fi Alliance recently announcing new nomenclature designed to simplify things. Wi-Fi Alliance is phasing out all of the different 802.11 designations and replacing them with terms like 'Wi-Fi 6' (next-generation 802.11ax) and 'Wi-Fi 5' (current generation 802.11ac).

It seems Qualcomm is not yet ready to kick 802.11 designations to the curb just yet, hence the new 60GHz 802.11ay chipsets. The difference here is that the the new chipsets aren't really intended for home routers, but could end up in virtual reality and augmented reality devices. In addition to serving up the standard 2.4GHz and 5GHz band found in Wi-Fi 6, Qualcomm's new chipsets also include 60GHz millimeter wave hardware.

"mmWave holds enormous potential to support a new class of user experiences, and Qualcomm Technologies is leading the charge with both its Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem family and unlicensed 60GHz Wi-Fi mmWave solution," said Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity and networking, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "Our 11ay solutions were developed with the flexibility to support a broad ecosystem of smartphone, router or fixed wireless access platforms and provides the industry with the critical building blocks needed to take connectivity performance to the next level."

One of the advantages of mmWave-based 60GHz Wi-Fi is that there isn't much interference to slow things down. Qualcomm describes it as a "bandwidth-rich spectrum" suitable for a wide range of wireless ecosystems spanning mobile, enterprise, outdoor backhaul, and the smart home.

It's not without its pitfalls, though. 60GHz WiGig is a short range wireless technology that isn't great at penetrating obstacles like walls. So, there's a trade off.

Qualcomm's new 60GHz Wi-Fi chipsets are available today, so it probably won't be long before third-party manufacturers start leveraging them.