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CES 2013: Qualcomm to present new wireless technology

Qualcomm will demonstrate its new technology for wireless routers at CES, called StreamBoost. Designed to meet the ongoing demand of users performing more intensive wireless tasks on their home networks, such as streaming high quality video to multiple devices or online gaming, StreamBoost manages and shapes network traffic. It's QoS (Quality-of-Service) but it's being touted as unprecedented, intelligent QoS. And just in time, because although there are plenty of routers on the market with varying QoS solutions, data demands are requiring very intelligent and precise handling of data packets not just in business, but in our homes.

With more home networks having more networked gadgets than ever, problems with slow connectivity, lag, and wireless congestion can make the wireless connected experience miserable for many. StreamBoost combines with the emerging 802.11ac standard to provide a more robust wireless experience. StreamBoost gives every device on a home network the necessary bandwidth needed for maximum performance.

In addition to QoS, StreamBoost's interface includes an optional cloud service. This service gives users the ability to view all devices on the home network as well as the applications those devices are using. As gadgets are added to the network, they become viewable in the cloud interface.

So far, D-Link and Alienware are vendors that have incorporated StreamBoost into their newest products.

"Our goal at D-Link is to ensure each customer has the best possible online experience," said Dan Kelly, associate vice-president of marketing at D-Link.

"StreamBoost gives us a way to make sure every person using the network will have an optimal experience, regardless of application usage."

QoS and how network traffic is handled will be one of the hottest topics in relation to wireless networking, even more so than throughout speeds and signal range. With the average home having seven wireless devices connected, the current 2.4 and 5 GHz band and their channels are becoming saturated. This abundance of wireless devices on relatively few channels allocated within the wireless spectrum can wreak havoc on performance ironically, as more and more wireless devices are marketed and sold. People want wireless and action is needed. Part of this action is to get 802.11ac ratified and 11ac routers, gadgets and adapters to the market so it becomes as ubiquitous as 802.11n.

The other action needed is on the part of vendors such as Qualcomm. Developing innovative QoS solutions that can negotiate what data has priority in a network, without requiring users to adjust a lot of settings in a router, is a must for future support of all of these wireless devices. Qualcomm is aware of this need.

"The explosion of media enjoyed on a variety of devices presents a conflict in the home network," said David Rabinovitsj, senior vice president and general manager, networking business unit, Qualcomm Atheros.

"Web surfing competes with streaming video, video chat competes with games, and downloads competes with everything. In the practical use case of a connected home, bandwidth will always be limited, but intelligent network management helps address this. We created Qualcomm StreamBoost to recognise and optimally allocate network traffic, providing users with the best Internet performance possible on all connected devices right out of the box."

StreamBoost sounds promising, but we've seen quite a few proprietary QoS solutions from Western Digital, Netgear, Amped Wireless and others. Some work better than others. Hopefully, StreamBoost will withstand testing and prove its value when we finally get to test products with the new technology. QoS is going to be an important new benchmark for how well a router can handle the demands of modern wireless traffic.