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Qualcomm gets second US design win for three-way WiFi combo

Qualcomm’s Atheros unit is boasting a second win for what it has labelled Tri-Band WiFi. Its first was in May with Cisco’s Linksys and now it has lined up Netgear – the other major US WiFi equipment retailer for consumers.

The Netgear Orbi tri-band system is not a combination of 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz – though Qualcomm could release that soon courtesy of its Wilocity purchase – but has two 5 GHz radios working in separate channels.

Orbi uses one 5 GHz channel as backhaul and sets up one access point at the home gateway and a second in the center of the living room. The two use a mesh to speak to one another. Although it is the first mesh solution to use Qualcomm tri-radio 802.11ac chipset, it has been AirTies which has pioneered this approach – indeed, that vendor has another version of its technology out this week.

Qualcomm calls its solution a self-organizing network (SON), true to its cellular credentials, but what it does it not precisely analogous to cellular SON. WiFi, by its own nature, is a self-organizing system, automatically searching for a clean channel upon start-up, and in some cases using dynamic and frequent DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) searches to keep away from conflicting signals.

The Qualcomm product adds extra code to repeat DFS searches and offers some automatic set-up and management services. It also has client steering capabilities, invented and first brought to market by AirTies, so that clients move to the most appropriate signal. Basically when 2.4 GHz gets busy, it shifts the workload to 5 GHz and vice versa.

Orbi avoids bad apple or sticky client problems in the backhaul channel, by reserving this entirely for mesh communications. This is probably not very clever in an operator environment, but in a pure retail environment, where there is no real end user support, reserving an entire 160 MHz or 80 MHz channel for backhaul between two devices might be wasteful, but it avoids a lot of potential WiFi issues in the home.

The Netgear Orbi WiFi system with Orbi Router and one Orbi Satellite will cost $400.

In the meantime, AirTies, a leader in WiFi mesh and advanced analytics, has unveiled its next generation mesh WiFi. The centerpiece is the compact Air 4830, which supports simultaneous streams of 4K/UHD video. This also supports new helpdesk visibility into a remote home WiFi environment, and gives the support team a chance to evaluate and fix poorly performing WiFi remotely.

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