Qualcomm Atheros wants to invade your home

Here at the Taipei Grand Hyatt, where it’s ten English quid for a coca cola, Qualcomm Atheros set up its briefing room right at the top. While most of our homes probably won’t have 24 floors – TechEye Towers is a modest 23 – you’ll probably be able to find a Qualcomm chipset within.

Qualcomm Atheros is really busy. It’s partnering with start-ups and established companies alike to try cement its place at the top of the connectivity ladder. Today Qualcomm talked up its upcoming Hy-Fi (apparently it stands for hybrid fidelity) and SmartLink products, which will act as both powerline and wi-fi connector in one. 

Because SmartLink uses all three wires, the line, the neutral and the ground, you can bung it into your crappiest plug and it’ll still make the best of a bad situation, Qualcomm tells us. 

Qualcomm Atheros’ SmartLink is a push towards 5GHz bandwidth, though it will support 2.4GHz too. It will use powerline technologies and Wi-Fi as one, which we’ve heard from some infrastructure experts is going to be kind of a big deal. 

Basically powerline utilises the, er, power line in your house as a connection. By running products with a Wi-Fi and powerline combo you double your chances of a good connection and if one drops that’s not that much of a problem. 5Ghz connectivity is going to be necessary, rather than a nice feature, for consumers as high definition streaming proliferates and becomes the norm. It’s on the way to standard in the enterprise and Qualcomm wants to push it to the rest of us.

Remember – connectivity boxes are not sexy but they do link up the increasing amount of gadgets and gizmos to the internet and each other.

According to Qualcomm Atheros’ Dan Rabinovitsj, SVP networking, the industry wants to move that way. Qualcomm certainly wants to make sure it’s picked up and that’s what the product push is all about. “We are driving the market in that direction,” he tells TechEye.

Critics suggest PLT needs some looking at. Recently the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK suggested PLT could cause interference on critical air systems. But “today, those problems are behind us”  says Rabinovitsj. 

“We don’t see the industry fretting about that. We can always make adjustments in a country with problems – frankly, the industry and Qualcomm are not worried.”

We did note Qualcomm was careful in its slides to say “most” interference is cut-out. Bold claims about shutting out all interference would be risky.

And will powerline be in all our homes as quick as some experts think? In five years time, says Qualcomm, we’ll be plenty over double the amount of connections now.

The response from service providers, such as Netflix, has been positive. We saw four HD films streaming at once. 

With SmartLink and Hy-Fi, Qualcomm is making a well considered, extra push into home and business networking. They’re ready for mass production now, we hear, and have been ready for some time. They will hit the market in “a couple of months”.