October 30, 2019

    Tony Testa continues his Wi-Fi Tech and Trends blog series with practical advice on designing your applications for Wi-Fi 6 and unlocking the full potential of the new standard.

    Wi-Fi Tech & Trends Series Logo Question Bubble Icon

    What do people need to know as Wi-Fi 6 takes hold, and what are some market trends you see happening?

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    Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the next generation standard in Wi-Fi technology. What’s exciting about Wi-Fi 6 is that it expands on the 802.11ac or Wi-Fi 5 standard by improving data capacity, the number of connected user devices per node and improved throughput over full RF range. The new Wi-Fi 6 standard offers theoretical speeds of up to 10 Gbps (in deployment we expect at least 4 times the throughput speeds compared to Wi-Fi 5). It also implements orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), which runs in full-duplex (up and down stream) multi-user multiple-input-multiple-output (MU-MIMO). It supports twelve streams, allowing each stream to service multiple devices. This increased capability provides 4 times the user capacity than current Wi-Fi 5 deployments.

    The Wi-Fi Alliance has released its Wi-Fi 6 certification program, thus giving way to manufacturers being able to submit designs for certification. That in itself is big news, but bigger news is that some market leading handset manufacturers already have designs completed and are submitting them now to be certified. This is driving both indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi 6 manufacturers to begin certification and deploy infrastructure with Wi-Fi 6 certified units. Customers will need a vendor with both an indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi 6 portfolio covering front-end solutions plus filtering. Qorvo offers these capabilities in a large portfolio along with IoT multi-protocol solutions that focus on Wi-Fi/IoT coexistence.

     

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    How do you maximize the potential of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard and meet certification requirements?

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    As mentioned, the Wi-Fi 6 standard improves data capacity, the number of connected user devices per node and throughput. However, to achieve these capabilities, there is a need for devices with higher levels of linearity, interference mitigation, and lower power consumption – all in a smaller device form factor. Wi-Fi 6 manufacturers will require the RF front-end devices to meet these parameters if they are going to be able to meet certification program requirements.

     

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    How is Qorvo helping customers gain a competitive advantage in designing their products for Wi-Fi 6?

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    With the increase in data throughput (4 times greater than Wi-Fi 5), and the number of users per node (4 times the capacity versus Wi-Fi 5) – the RF design portion of a Wi-Fi end-product has increased in complexity. Not only has the modulation scheme increased to 1024 QAM, quadrupling wireless speeds compared to Wi-Fi 5, but receiver sensitivity and power amplifier (PA) linearity has become more challenging.

    Tips for overcoming the RF challenges:

    • The increase in QAM (i.e. 1024) means Wi-Fi 6 manufacturers must meet more challenging RF linearity requirements. The linearity specification could be as high as -47 dBm error vector magnitude (EVM) for some manufacturers. To address that challenge, customers can use optimized RF Front-End (RFFE) devices having EVM margin to ensure certification is met for their end-product.
    • Because sensitivity specifications have increased, a lower noise figure (NF) in the receive-path is a must have.
    • Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 standards have demanded lower power consumption targets. The challenge is to meet the above specifications while keeping end-product power consumptions at a minimum.
    • New coexistence challenges in 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands increase the need for specialized filtering.

    Now that the Wi-Fi 6 standard is defined, you can minimize potential design challenges by collaborating with a skilled RF applications team who is knowledgeable about ways to optimize a design to meet the above requirements.

     

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    What specific products does Qorvo suggest in Wi-Fi 6 applications?

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    EVM and noise are key parameters to focus on in a Wi-Fi 6 product or application. EVM is a measure used to quantify the performance of a digital radio transmitter or receiver. Noise (including phase noise), distortion and spurious signals can degrade EVM. Because real-world Wi-Fi applications are pulsed (the PA pulses on each time it transmits data, then pulses off to save power) design engineers should focus their attention to Dynamic EVM values on product data sheets. As Dynamic EVM values accurately reflect how a PA in a Wi-Fi system operates. Thus, choosing components with Dynamic EVM levels measured in pulse modes are your best choice.

    Another recommendation is to choose a product that covers 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. These products include embedded filter solutions to address bandedge and coexistence. We are also developing new products to address the expansion of Wi-Fi 6 in the 6 GHz space.

    Some of our Wi-Fi 6 solutions are:

    Part Number Details
    QPF4506 5 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4206 2.4 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4516 5 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4528 5 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4228 2.4 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4588 5 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4288 2.4 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF7219 2.4 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    QPF4800 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz W-Fi Front-End
    885136 2.4 GHz Bandedge Filter
    885128 2.4 GHz Coexistence Filter

    These RFFE modules are designed to meet the Wi-Fi 6 standard. They are highly integrated modules with various Wi-Fi 6 system capabilities.

     

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    What makes a Qorvo Wi-Fi 6 product offering different?

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    Qorvo offers the entire RFFE solution including filters. We also have a portfolio that can accommodate highly integrated or fully discrete designs in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Our bandedge filters also provide customers with extended range across all channels in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. The overall benefit of these bandedge filters is RF range and quality of service without interference from Bluetooth®, microwave ovens, cellular phones, etc.

    Qorvo can integrate all the Wi-Fi RFFE and advanced filtering capabilities in a single placement device. Thus, simplifying RF layout, time-to-market, and overall improved RF performance by reduced matching and trace loss.

    Another trend taking place in the Wi-Fi 6 marketplace is the integration of Wi-Fi and IoT (i.e. ZigBee®, Thread and BLE). The smart home space is seeing the merging of Wi-Fi and IoT into one package design or home network – bringing together the smart home, the internet, lighting control, voice activation control, home automation and security. Qorvo is proud to be one of the few companies that offers customers these two technologies in one solution, reducing customer complexity and design. This offers our customers an advantage integrating Wi-Fi 6 and IoT multi-protocol functionality – helping them get to market faster and with confidence.

    Tony’s Final Thoughts:

    By working with customers early in their development of Wi-Fi 6 designs, we are able to shorten their time-to-market with highly integrated fully functioning solutions. Our participation in industry alliances and work groups means we are at the forefront of supporting and guiding each standards evolution. We have focused tirelessly in providing the highest efficiency devices – enabling our customers to fit into attractive form factors and reduce their bill of material costs. It’s exciting to help customers bring their products to life – with Wi-Fi being a ubiquitous wireless connection in a seamlessly connected world.

    The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such marks by Qorvo US, Inc. is under license. Other trademarks and trade names are those of their respective owners.

     

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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.