Recently I have heard of many industry research projects which revealed that satisfactory WiFi connectivity remains of the of most common problems for the average user. It might be shocking at first, but problems such as range, line of sight and interference are very easy to find in the real world. That’s why Qualcomm has led the WiFi industry towards Mesh Networking which brings a lot of technologies from the phone infrastructure world into the home. At Computex 2017, the company has revealed its Mesh Networking reference hardware design.
This is the materialization of Qualcomm’s SON (Self-Organized Network) specifications and hardware platform into a developer product that should accelerate future developments. This could also enlarge Qualcomm’s customer base to smaller companies that would base their future products on this design, rather than building something proprietary.
Qualcomm is already powering most commercially available WiFi Mesh products, but each hardware partner (OEM) can choose to implement only parts of the existing specs, called Mesh Networking 1.0. This Qualcomm reference design will lead the way in implementing more features and serve as a baseline for developers and partners. Among the features that are supported, you can find:
- Voice-assistant capabilities: because the mesh has several physical nodes in your homes, it makes sense to add voice-listening and speaker capabilities so that Alexa-style voice assistants could be integrated.
- Smarthome networking radio and protocols: eliminating the need for multiple and proprietary boxes eliminates smart home The reference design includes support for Zigbee and Bluetooth so that mesh routers can also become smart home IoT hubs.
- Better inter-node communications: the SON specifications always included the possibility of having mesh nodes linked via several types of connections, such as Ethernet, wireless, powerline communications and various flavors of WiFi, including AD and AX. Many products do not implement powerline, just to cite an obvious, and very useful one.
Qualcomm isn’t the only player, and competitors like MediaTek also have “whole home WiFi” solutions that are also based on mesh networking. However, Qualcomm seems to have the upper hand at this time, and this new reference design should help it push things forward.
Good WiFi connectivity is key to a good computing experience, and efforts over building robust mesh networks should be welcome by everyone. Mesh networking solves a lot of the common coverage and performance problems encountered by WiFi users today, and it looks like things are going to accelerate in the coming years.