Here's why Qualcomm getting serious about Wi-Fi 6 is such a big deal

Qualcomm probably makes the processor inside your phone but the company is also very competitive in other areas, like networking gear and more recently, laptops. The wireless technology it provides makes Qualcomm a safe and simple drop-in solution for just about anything that needs to crunch data and connect wirelessly. With the announcements it made during the company's Wi-Fi 6 Day in San Francisco, Qualcomm is going to look even better for companies making the products we use every day.

What's new for mobile

On the mobile side, Qualcomm announced new branding for its wireless solutions — FastConnect. As part of a complete mobile SoC (System on Chip) — that's the processor, controllers for memory and storage, wireless solutions, and more — the FastConnect chips have a lot to offer. Inside the Snapdragon 855, you'll find the FastConnect 6200 name attached to the chip but no new capabilities were announced. With the new name, Qualcomm highlights just how capable it already is when it comes to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and audio tech. What the FastConnect 6200 is missing is Wi-Fi 6.

Qualcomm's FastConnect chips bring the complete wireless package on a single piece of silicon.

We already have devices with Wi-Fi 6 on-board like the Samsung Galaxy S10, which was the first to bring it to consumers. With the Galaxy S10, though, Samsung had to tap Broadcomm for a Wi-Fi 6-capable solution. Starting with the upcoming FastConnect 6800 chipset, Wi-Fi 6 joins the party. A single chip will be able to bring 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax Wi-Fi capabilities, as well as Bluetooth 5.1 and Qualcomm patented TrueWireless audio tech.

What makes this great for companies making devices like phones or laptops is having everything bundled as a single package. Qualcomm's upcoming SoC can incorporate everything to save money while cutting down on power needs. That's the kind of thing companies love and it should be enough to ensure that the next generation of phones, tablets, and ARM-powered laptops won't look to competitors like Intel or Broadcomm for any wireless needs.

Your next router

As competitive and exciting as mobile is, the big news from Qualcomm is the new Qualcomm Networking Pro products announced. These are designed for stationary equipment like networking gear and have the potential to make your next Wi-Fi router awesome.

During the event, four Wi-Fi 6 and 5G capable chips were announced with support for 4, 6, 8, and 12 spatial streams. This puts Qualcomm into the running alongside Broadcomm and Intel in the consumer market where Qualcomm currently has very little presence; the company makes a great 12-stream Wi-Fi 6 chipset for Wireless Access points, but it's a more robust (read: expensive) option designed for Enterprise users. The Networking Pro series covers the spectrum from low to high-end consumer gear.

Qualcomm's Networking Pro series of chipsets should be fast, secure, and reliable. Did I mention fast?

Where things get really interesting is the Networking Pro 600 series and above. These chips support Qualcomm's mesh networking tech known as Wi-Fi SON. One of these features allows the wireless streams to be split when it comes to their usage. This means a high-end mesh router system using Qualcomm's Wireless Pro 1200, for example, can use a 4x4 stream for inbound traffic, a 4x4 stream for outbound traffic, and another 4x4 stream for wireless backhaul. That means your connection to the router is fast both ways, and the connection between each node in a mesh network is just as fast.

More: What is Wi-Fi 6, and should you buy a new router?

What does all this really mean?

We've already heard that Netgear plans to use Qualcomm's new Networking Pro chip in its Wi-Fi 6 refresh of the Netgear Orbi, the company's mesh solution. Other big names like Belkin, Rukus, and Aruba have said they plan to incorporate the new chips, so look for devices to ship with Networking Pro SoCs "soon". Qualcomm seems to have delivered just what is needed for a future where Wi-Fi and 5G live on the same gear to make sure you're always connected.

This is how Qualcomm secures its future and shapes yours.

That's where mobile and wireless is headed, whether we're ready for it or not. Part of the 5G specification makes cellular behave a lot more like WI-Fi than anything we've experienced before, and Wi-Fi keeps getting faster and more robust. As these technologies converge, the gear we use to stay connected will change. Producing a single solution that helps this happen means Qualcomm will help shape how it plays out. The phone you have right now isn't really going to benefit from anything that was announced. But your next one will, and the one after that will have been designed using what was learned from these sorts of products.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.