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CES 2015

CES logoMost of the networking news at CES 2015 was made by chipmakers and Things.

Chipmakers

The world of consumer networking that we focus on at SmallNetBuilder is small potatoes at CES. Yet, it's the one place where I can come catch up with the usual suspects and prowl for new ones.

There were relatively few router introductions this year, with the most interesting being the new D-Link Ultra line. Two of the three new routers mark the first appearance of Broadcom's 4x4 802.11ac chipset. Because of Broadcom's tardiness to market, it had to have something to entice router makers. That something was 1024-QAM moduation, which Broadcom calls NitroQAM.

D-Link Ultra Routers

During my brief visit to Broadcom's always busy private demo area, the speedometer-style readout on the cabled demo showed roughly 1 Gbps between two demo boards (one configured as AP, the other as a bridge). I didn't have time to ask how many streams the demo was running or whether they were TCP or UDP before my time was up. But the demonstrator admitted that achieving the maximum 5 GHz 2165 Mbps link rate required a very strong signal, which comes as no surprise.

Like Broadcom's TurboQAM before it, NitroQAM will probably again set competing chipmakers scrambling to add the feature to their chipsets, even though it has little practical use. Yes, Broadcom will bake 1024-QAM into new AC client chipsets. But it will take at least a year before those devices find their way into the world and they will be 1x1 or 2x2 mobile designs at best. So don't expect clients capable of achieving 2165 Mbps link rates to ever appear, at least not in portable form.

CES 2015 also marked the first announcements of products based on Qualcomm Atheros' (QCA) 4x4 chipset announced last April. These products have been classed as AC2600 and all announcements said they will support MU-MIMO when they ship. So router-makers with Quantenna-based AC2350 4x4 designs now have a mid-year deadline to turn MU-MIMO on in their products. (All the routers in the table below have Q2 or "mid-year" 2015 ship dates.)

The table below shows all CES 2015 announced routers using either QCA or Broadcom 4x4 chipsets.

Product Class # of Antennas 2.4 GHz Max. Link Rate (Mbps) 5 GHz Max. Link Rate (Mbps)
Amped Wireless RTA2600 Athena AC2600 4 800 1733
D-Link DIR-895L AC5300 8 1000 2165
D-Link DIR-885L AC3100 4 1000 2165
Linksys EA8500 AC2600 4 800 1733
TP-LINK Archer C2600 AC2600 4 800 1733
TRENDnet TEW-827DRU AC2600 4 800 1733

As of CES, Quantenna, Broadcom and QCA aren't the only 4x4 AC chipmakers in town. MediaTek announced its MT7615 4x4 AC SoC and Celeno announced its Quicksilver chipset with support for 160 MHz bandwidth. Marvell also announced its 88W8964 Avastar SoC, for a total of six chipmakers with 4x4 AC solutions.

Things

You may be as tired as I am already of the IoT (Internet of Things) hype out of CES 2015. But the CE industry needs something to get people fired up to buy and home automation seems to be getting its turn at the table.

I'm not going to attempt to summarize all the IoT related announcements. Suffice to say there were a bunch from new "smart" light bulbs to Z-Wave hubs to self-parking BMWs. My takeaway is that consumer networking product and NAS manufacturers are sensing an opportunity in IoT, so be on lookout for new products as 2015 progresses.

D-Link and Belkin have caught the most IoT fever with a line of Z-Wave sensors and a hub to go with from D-Link. Belkin's new WeMo sensors will likely be bundled with the same hub currently bundled with its smart bulbs when ship time comes later this year. NETGEAR seems to have the least interest in IoT at the moment with no IoT sensors and only its Arlo Security cams. There was also no indication from Linksys of any WeMo integration.

None of the bigger guys are showing signs of integrating Z-Wave, Zigbee or even Bluetooth LE (aka Bluetooth Smart) into routers. They're letting Securifi take the lead with its Almond+ and its integrated Z-Wave and Zigbee radios.

This third router from Securifi is its first AC and therefore dual-band design (AC1750) and should start shipping by the end of this quarter.

Securifi Almond+

Securifi Almond+

Given the continued growth in connected things and the entry of consumer networking companies into the space, look for SNB to expand coverage in this area this year.

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