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Qualcomm Atheros' 802.11ac ecosystem to span all wireless networking

Qualcomm Atheros announces its extensive support for the upcoming 802.11ac wireless networking standard.

As predicted at CES 2012, the new and much faster wireless networking standard, 802.11ac, is really going to arrive this year.

Following Broadcom, Qualcomm Atheros today launched its own 802.11ac Wi-Fi ecosystem that covers all aspects of wireless networking--mobile devices, computers, and other electronics--scaling from home to enterprise applications.

Sharing the common 802.11ac standard, Qualcomm's new chips offer up to the top speed of 1.3Gbps (three-stream), 900Mbps (dual-stream), and 450Mbps (single-stream). Basically, the new Wi-Fi standard will offer comparable performance to Gigabit Ethernet, and even faster in some instances, so wireless networking will no longer be a compromise.

Single-stream is best suited for mobile devices since it uses the least energy. For this, Qualcomm offers the WCN3680 chip, which combines 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Bluetooth and FM radio. The company says the chip will work well with its 28nm Snapdragon family of processors, and will be integrated with the dual-core Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 and the quad-core S4 APQ8064 CPUs.

The single-stream WCN3680 will also be viable in regular computing and electronics products, such as laptops, low-profile computers, tablets, and mobile game consoles.

For home appliances, such as TVs, media streamers, and high-end desktops and notebooks, the company offers the three-stream (3x3) standalone QCA9860 and dual-stream (2x2) QCA9862 chips. These two chips support all 802.11 wireless standards as well as Bluetooth. There are also another two chips, QCA9880 (3x3) and QCA9882 (2x2), which support only 802.11ac/a/b/g/n.

For enterprise products Qualcomm introduced two other chips, the QCA9890 (3x3) and the QCA9892 (2x2), which support 802.11ac/a/b/g/n enterprise networking, with "enhanced in-building location and spectral sensing capabilities," the company said in a statement.

Qualcomm says its new 802.11ac chips for computing are "highly integrated" to work with "the smallest, thinnest notebooks." The chips also support Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Display.

As for availability, Qualcomm says it will be sending samples of the 802.11ac chips to OEM customers in the second quarter of 2012. This means you will likely find products based on these chips by the end of the year.