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Qualcomm and Wilocity mix Wi-Fi and WiGig, demo first Tri-band consumer products

Qualcomm announces at CES 2013 the first Tri-band reference design that combines Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ad (WiGig) wireless capabilities in a single module, and demos the first product that supports this design.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
2 min read

LAS VEGAS--Your laptop might already have dual-band Wi-Fi, but how about Tri-band for a change?

Qualcomm and Wilocity today announced at CES 2013 the first Tri-band reference design that combines Wireless-N (802.11n), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and 802.11ad (also known as WiGig) in one single networking product.

The new chip is based on the Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip, which was launched just a few days ago, and Wilocity 802.11ad WiGig wireless technologies. It's the first chip with tri-band Wi-Fi, meaning it offers wireless networking signals in all three existing bands of the Wi-Fi standard -- 2.4GHz, the 5GHz, and 60GHz -- as well as Gigabit Ethernet.

This is a very significant development for the 60GHz 802.11ad standard, which offers wireless speeds of up to 7Gbps at the expense of range, which is much shorter than what you get from the other two standards. When it's combined with the Wi-Fi family, you get the benefit of the faster speed without having to buy a separate router.

The Dell Ultrabook and the Tri-band Wi-Fi/WiGig add-in card it has on the inside for Wilocity CES 2013 demos.
The Dell Ultrabook and the Tri-band Wi-Fi/WiGig add-in card it has on the inside for Wilocity CES 2013 demos. Wilocity

In short, the Tri-band reference design allows consumers to connect to 60GHz-enabled devices, such as docks, displays, and storage, at multigigabit speeds, while maintaining connection with 2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi.

Recently the Wi-Fi Alliance and the WiGigi Alliance announced their merger, presaging the fast adoption of the 60GHz 802.11ad standard in the coming years.

According to Qualcomm, the latest-generation tri-band wireless networking card takes advantage of the new Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac technology combined with the recently ratified 802.11ad standard that enables multigigabit networking, data syncing, and video and audio streaming, while maintaining its wireless bus extension docking capabilities. The card will be available in two versions: the QCA9006NFC next-generation form factor (NGFF) and the QCA9006WBD half-mini card (HMC) specification.

Wilocity demoed the first commercially available product to use the new Tri-band, which is the Dell Latitude 6430u Ultrabook. This laptop can connect to any Wi-Fi network (both 802.11ac and 802.11n) as well as to other 802.11ad devices for a multigigabit wireless connection. The demo involved the laptop being connected to its wireless 802.11ad docking station, which adds more connectors to the laptop. The two can maintain a multigigabit wireless connection within about 10 feet of each other.

There aren't any Tri-band access points or routers on the market yet and the only use of the 60GHz band is to connect two devices in a pair. Once an access point/router is available, which will be sometime this year, multiple 802.11ad devices will be able to connect with one another, just as with regular Wi-Fi standards.