Qualcomm announces world’s first integrated 802.11ax chip for smartphones and tablets

A chip that supports a Wi-Fi standard that isn't a practical option just yet

Wi-Fi symbol

Ahead of the start of Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm has announced its new WCN3998 802.11ax Wi-Fi chip.

Qualcomm will start sharing samples of the silicon, designed for smartphones, tablets and notebook computers, with hardware OEMs in the second quarter of this year, in advance of when the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to finalize the 11ax standard.

This latest Wi-Fi chip features a number of technical enhancements over the company’s previous chips. The most notable of these is support for 8×8 MIMO.

Essentially, compared to previous 802.11n chips, which made use of 4×4 MIMO, Qualcomm’s new 11ax chip is able to send twice as many spatial streams. As a result, the new chip will deliver both significant throughput and speed gains.

802.11ax chips have achieved multi-gigabit speeds in lab tests; in practice, and depending on a variety of factors, real-world speeds will likely top out somewhere between 1Gbps and 2Gbps.

Additionally, the new chip supports the new WPA3 Wi-Fi encryption standard, which is designed to provide more robust protection when it comes to user passwords and privacy.

Lastly, the WCN3998 also features a re-designed Bluetooth antenna that Qualcomm says supports Bluetooth 5.0 and possible enhancements in the Bluetooth standard, which is good news for the continued adoption of truly wireless headphones.

Of course, all of these benefits depend on the WCN3998 connecting with an 802.11ax-capable router. In short, don’t expect your local coffee shop to get an 802.11ax router anytime soon. With 802.11ac’s reliance on the 5GHz band to deliver its speed benefits, it won’t be a practical solution for a variety of homes and businesses.

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