Wi-Fi 6E Tri-Band SoC to Unlock 6GHz Spectrum

Article By : Nitin Dahad

NXP's Wi-Fi 6E tri-band chipset designed to take advantage of the 6 GHz spectrum...

With widespread reallocation of the 6 GHz band, the rollout of Wi-Fi 6E devices with its super wide 160 MHz channels is gaining momentum. With this in mind, NXP Semiconductors is introducing a Wi-Fi 6E tri-band chipset designed for access points and service provider gateways to enable end network devices to take full advantage of the 6 GHz spectrum.

This year will certainly see proliferation in the consumer world for Wi-Fi 6E, as we saw with the launch at CES 2021 of mobile handsets and routers. In fact, in its predictions for 2021, the Wi-Fi Alliance said that we will see the delivery of 6 GHz to users with the widespread adoption of Wi-Fi 6E.

In a briefing with EE Times, Larry Olivas, head of marketing for NXP’s wireless connectivity solutions, said that Wi-Fi 6E creates a wireless superhighway. While some of the other major chip firms that have launched their Wi-Fi 6E chips had been targeting smartphones, he said NXP is specifically targeting access points and gateways. “We are more focused on the gateway carriers.”

This follows NXP’s launch last year of its expanded Wi-Fi 6 portfolio to enable wider market adoption across IoT, automotive, access and industrial markets.

With regard to Wi-Fi 6E, the Wi-Fi Alliance highlighted that the U.S. recently cleared unlicensed access to 1200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band. The U.K., Europe, South Korea, Chile, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates are expected to deliver 6 GHz to their citizens before the end of the year, and many other countries are following their lead.

It said users will see worldwide rollout of Wi-Fi 6E devices as multiple vendors embrace 6 GHz. Up to seven 160 MHz channels can be used with this newly available spectrum, triggering development and innovation for higher bandwidth applications including unified communications, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and holographic video. New use cases are likely to support telemedicine, virtual learning, and telepresence that rely on Wi-Fi 6E’s speed and latency benefits.

The hope is that with features like OFDMA extended into the less congested 6 GHz band, Wi-Fi 6E will help address the reliability and deterministic needs demanded by industrial applications, helping facilitate the transition from wired to wireless in Industrial IoT environments. In addition, Wi-Fi Alliance certification for Wi-Fi 6E will ensure certified devices operating in 6 GHz worldwide are secure and interoperable.

According to Andrew Zignani, a principal analyst at ABI Research, “The increased availability of unlicensed 6 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi is the most exciting and transformative change to the Wi-Fi landscape in recent times, bringing about much higher throughput, greater capacity, increased reliability, and improved quality of service, all of which will help enable new wireless services while addressing key challenges currently facing the technology.”

New chipset enables adoption in access points and gateways

Enabling adoption is where NXP’s new chipset comes in. The company’s CW641 Wi-Fi 6E tri-band system on chip (SoC) supports 6 GHz, 5 GHz, and 2.4 GHz operation, helping fulfil customer demands for greater capacity in wireless networking and supporting 160 MHz channel width with PHY rates of 4.8Gbps and user data rates over 4Gbps.

NXP CW641 block diagram
The NXP CW641 block diagram; the tri-band SoC is a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6E device with 160/80/40/20MHz channel bandwidth and peak PHY rate of 4.8Gbps. It is designed for access points to enable network devices to utilize the 6 GHz spectrum. (Image: NXP Semiconductors)

Designed for access points and service provider gateways, the CW641 unlocks increased speeds of over 4Gbps and multi-user performance in the new 6 GHz band, providing greater capacity and lower latency, improving the Wi-Fi user experience. Adding 6 GHz capabilities to gateway platforms gives service providers options to efficiently partition available bandwidth across devices to ensure optimum user experience for a wide range of applications. Mission critical, high bandwidth, low latency applications like mesh back haul and cloud gaming are ideal for migration to 6 GHz, freeing up the 5GHz and 2.4 GHz bands for other lower bandwidth applications.

The new Wi-Fi 6E tri-band SoC makes it possible to take full advantage of the 6 GHz spectrum to boost the performance of in-home mesh networks, streaming high-resolution music and videos, online gaming, video calling, digital downloads, data-heavy web content and other use cases. Beyond access point applications, the CW641 SoC addresses high performance Wi-Fi 6E applications across consumer, automotive, industrial, and internet of things (IoT).

NXP’s Olivas said, “As our first Wi-Fi 6E SoC to support the 6 GHz spectrum, the CW641 enhances the overall Wi-Fi experience by making less congested airwaves available to routers and gateways for multi-device, data-intensive applications. Our new chipset makes it possible to take advantage of this new uncongested bandwidth, which will provide increased performance with less interference for devices on the Wi-Fi 6E network.”

ABI Research’s Zignani added, “The Wi-Fi industry requires new Wi-Fi 6E chipsets that can effectively address the varied demands of the market. Solutions such as NXP’s latest CW641 Wi-Fi 6E chipset will play a fundamental role in enabling the 6 GHz infrastructure rollout, allowing a varied ecosystem of end devices, applications and services to take advantage of this enormous new opportunity for Wi-Fi.”

In a white paper entitled, “How Wi-Fi 6 is driving the next wave of wireless innovation”, Zignani said this would require a combination of robust access chipsets that can serve a variety of price points for consumer, service provider, and enterprise APs, low-power IoT chipsets, Bluetooth combos, and increased integration with other IoT wireless technologies to better support a variety of smart home, smart building, and Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications. “Leading Wi-Fi and wireless connectivity chipset vendors, such as NXP, offer diverse Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E chipset portfolios, including the accompanying front-end ICs to help address these varied market demands.”

He said with both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, Enhancements like OFDMA can support more deterministic industrial networking performance than ever before, ensuring much higher QoS (quality of service) than with previous Wi-Fi standards. More efficient resource management can ensure reliable performance is maintained at all times, particularly as more devices are connected and potentially become disruptive. In addition, features like TWT (target wake time), can help extend the battery life for a variety of Wi-Fi 6-based IIoT sensors, enabling more flexible placement of condition monitoring sensors for more reliable inputs, connecting previously unconnected machinery, and bringing additional battery life to other power-sensitive applications.

Over the next few years, Zignani said 6 GHz Wi-Fi will become increasingly important as more spectrum becomes available across the globe. Tri-band 1×1 and 2×2 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth-capable combo chipsets will be critical in driving performance across many applications and speeding up the rollout of Wi-Fi 6E technology.

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