updated 12:00 pm EST, Thu January 5, 2012
Broadcom adds first four 802.11ac chipsets
Broadcom claimed the distinction of being the first to make chipsets with 802.11ac, being nicknamed 5G Wi-Fi, on Thursday. The BCM43516, BCM43526, BCM4352, and BCM4360 all have twice as much bandwidth per channel as the current-fastest 802.11n and can stack multiple streams together to get very high speeds. The flagship chip, the BCM4360, can unite three streams and hit 1.3Gbps.
The extra speed is considered ideal for streaming HD video across multiple devices in a home and can ultimately save power. Along with being made on a smaller and more efficient 40 nanometer process, the new chips economize by getting data across the network faster and powering down sooner.
New advances help the reliability and range, such as beam forming that steers the signals more directly towards the target as well as a new 256-QAM modulation technique that gets information across more efficiently. Broadcom promises that 802.11ac is backwards-compatible and can work in Wi-Fi Direct mode as well as talk to Bluetooth or NFC for a hand-off.
The choice of chipset dictates the speed as well as the ultimate purpose. The BCM43516 communicates over USB and is meant for mobile devices and set-top boxes, using one stream of data that can still get it 433Mbps. The mid-range carries the BCM43526, which also supports USB but has two streams and 867Mbps of speed, while the BCM4352 talks over PCI Express and is intended for computers and routers. The 1.3Gbps BCM4360 is in the same large-sized device category as its BCM4352 sibling.
Production samples are going out now, which points to any finished products only shipping several months later into the year. Not all its customers are known, but ASUS, Belkin, Buffalo, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, Netgear, Ubee, and ZTE have already lined up behind 802.11ac so far.