March 13, 2020

    In today’s Smart Home, users often grapple with signal range and quality. These concerns will continue to mount as the installed base of connected devices climbs to a projected 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025 – according to Statista’s 2020 report. Mesh Wi-Fi is the solution to overcoming this challenge. In this blog, Tony Testa provides practical advice to enhance the new Smart Home with mesh Wi-Fi systems.

     

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    What is a mesh Wi-Fi system and how does it help provide better whole-home coverage?

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    Distributed or mesh Wi-Fi systems include a router that connects to your main modem and multiple satellite router-like devices, or nodes, placed around the home to provide full Wi-Fi coverage. The more nodes, the further the connection spreads.

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    Today’s mesh networks:

    • Self-configure – can automatically incorporate a new node into the existing infrastructure network without any adjustment by a network administrator.
    • Are self-healing – the network automatically finds the fastest and most reliable paths to send data, even if nodes are blocked or lose signal.
    • Run faster – because local packets don’t have to travel back to a central server, these satellite nodes can handle the data independently.
    • Make the network adaptable and expandable – mesh nodes are easily installed or uninstalled as more or less coverage is needed.
    • Can have a single Service Set Identifier or SSID across different frequencies versus the historical naming of multiple routers at different frequency bands – Home Wi-Fi versus Home Wi-Fi 2.4 / Home Wi-Fi 5 GHz.

    Today’s Smart Homes are crowded with multiple services (i.e., security, lighting, etc.), using various technologies and numerous standards. Historically the gateway device that provided the main internet to the home would transmit the Wi-Fi, but the additional services required several central controllers for each. Moving forward, the gateway device will have many embedded wireless solutions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE), Zigbee and Thread. This will reduce the need for individual central controllers. These same wireless standards and capabilities will be added into the Wi-Fi mesh system (extenders and repeaters).

    Because access to the internet/cloud in the home is through an established distributed/mesh Wi-Fi system, additional BLE, Zigbee and Thread systems can utilize the Wi-Fi mesh as backhaul for carrying data. Wi-Fi 6 implementation further facilitates this by enabling 4-times more users and connections, which provides ~4-times faster throughput rates. The added benefit is that it’s highly optimized to be the local area networking system for all these additional services (security, lighting, audio distribution, environmental controls, etc.).

    Wi-Fi Tech & Trends

    Read other blogs in this series to get practical design advice from Wi-Fi expert Tony Testa.

    E-Book: Everything You Need to Know About Future-Proofing Wi-Fi

    Wi-Fi Trends: Designing for a More Connected Future

     

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    What are some common RF challenges Wi-Fi manufacturers have regarding mesh Wi-Fi designs?

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    Here are a few fundamental challenges I’m hearing from Wi-Fi manufacturers:

    1. Thermal heat – the desire for smaller form factors complicates the removal of heat from the end-product.
    2. Interference robustness – multiple radio solutions are required to manage the services fragmented in today’s Smart Home environment. Mitigating the interference that can occur between these standards and frequency bands is becoming more and more difficult.
    3. Time-to-market – complexity of the RF challenges in design with advanced Wi-Fi standards like Wi-Fi 6, multiple radios/coexistence can extend the design cycle times to meet all regulatory requirements.

    When using RF components effectively in an application, these individual challenges can be addressed. For example:

    • Using high Q (Quality) factor filter technology like BAW, designers can reduce their link budget because of the lower insertion loss associated with high Q devices. Additionally, these high Q BAW filters effectively eliminate or minimize undesired interference between bands and wireless standards because of their ability to have superior out-of-band attenuation. These filters also have excellent Thermal Coefficient of Frequency (or TCF) reducing thermally induced frequency shifts of the filter. This helps mitigate attenuation variations that can cause a product to fail regulatory qualification.
    • Using RF Front-End (RFFE) components that are optimized for high linearity and low power consumption can lower thermal heat issues in a Wi-Fi system. This reduces the need for heat sinks or fans in addition to helping manufacturers more easily meet regulatory requirements.
    • Using fully functioning RFFE modules with coexistence and bandedge filters, switches, PA’s and LNA’s for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operation will reduce undesired time-consuming tuning, heat mitigation and provide a plug-and-play solution. In addition to allowing designers to meet tight time-to-market schedules.

     

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    How is Qorvo helping customers gain a competitive advantage in designing their products for a mesh network?

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    Qorvo has focused its connectivity solutions for home wireless system improvements in:

    1. Efficiency – enabling small form factors and reducing heat,
    2. Integrating advanced filtering solutions – enabling coexistence or what we call “coexBoost™” with multiple radios operating concurrently,
    3. Lastly, through system solutions – as our offerings encompass not only individual components but full System-On-Chip solutions in the IoT environment (BLE, Zigbee, Thread). Our approach provides a holistic way to help our customers solve all their complex RF problems.

     

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    What products does Qorvo suggest for a mesh network application?

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    Today, we have an entire portfolio for Wi-Fi 6 solutions covering the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. Using Qorvo RFFE solutions with bandedge or what we call "edgeBoost™" filtering, customers can achieve regulatory compliance at higher power levels across all 2.4 GHz spectrum channels. Additionally, we have cellular and IoT “coexBoost™” filtering RF Front End variants. New developments in diplexers, 5 GHz filtering and 6 GHz solutions further expand our portfolio. Some products to look at on Qorvo.com are:

    Part Number Details
    QPF4506 5 GHz Wi-Fi 6 Front-End
    QPF4206 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Front-End
    QPF4216 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 6 Front-End
    QPF7219 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 6 Front-End
    QPF4800 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi Dual-Band Front-End

     

    In addition, we have gateway optimized IoT solutions such as the QPG7015M, providing multiple protocols (BLE/Zigbee/Thread) in a single placement and meeting extended range requirements with +20dBm output power.

     

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    How are Qorvo products able to support mesh Wi-Fi designs?

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    Qorvo has a unique capability of leveraging a vast array of technology, component design and integration, with the added ability to merge these system blocks with our IoT solutions. By using this larger technology toolbox, we solve the complex challenges in enabling the Smart Home. We offer advanced options for integration that help reduce size, cost and most importantly cut down time-to-market for our customers – simplifying many complex RF tuning/and layout requirements.

     

    Tony’s Final Thoughts:

    Mesh Wi-Fi systems provide the inherent “back-bone” of in-home connectivity. Today’s network traffic (gaming, video streaming, internet, music, computing, etc.), and additional Smart Home service traffic (voice assistants, security, climate controls, video, audio, etc.) are expanded through advancements in the Wi-Fi 6 standard. The desire to make these mesh devices (gateways, extenders, repeaters, etc.) as sleek and small as possible within the home forces higher levels of integration and improvements in performance. Qorvo continues to invest, develop, and acquire to support our customers’ needs and truly enable the “Smart Home.”

     

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    About the Author

    Tony Testa
    Director – Marketing, Wireless Connectivity Business Unit

    Tony Testa inspires wireless connectivity product innovations for Qorvo. With his 20 plus years of experience supporting industry alliance activities and customers, he helps engineers create state-of-the-art RF solutions that have a profound impact on our daily life.