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Smarter Celeno Wi-Fi chip manages device throughput

John Cox | Feb. 4, 2014
New firmware for Celeno's Wi-Fi chips lets home gateways and routers control transmission times for clients, improving throughput.

What if your home Wi-Fi router could juggle all your smartphones, tablets, laptops, consoles and the rest of your technostuff, weigh the different types of traffic, and then make adjustments to optimize throughput for each device? New firmware for Celeno Communications' Wi-Fi chips is intended to do just that.

The new OptimizAir 2.0 code is for what Celeno calls "airtime management." It now lets the Celeno 11n and 11ac radio chips use customized rules to allocate to each SSID (or even each device) set up on a router or similar device a specific amount of time for its transmissions. Throughput is directly proportional to time on the network. OptimizAir makes transmission time consistent for clients, smoothing out network connections, and making it impossible for one client to hog the air, crippling throughput for the others.

This idea of "airtime fairness" isn't new, but Celeno is introducing this capability on its radio chip, not as a higher layer software feature as has been typically done by WLAN product vendors.

Celeno's chips are aimed at home gateways and routers and similar network infrastructure devices, often supplied via a cable TV company or Internet provider. Using the new firmware, they could, for example, add a second SSID for public Wi-Fi access to the residential wireless router offered to residential customers. With OpitmizAir 2.0, the provider can allocate 80% of the capacity in a given channel to the residential Wi-Fi clients, and 20% for the outward-facing public Wi-Fi access, says Lior Weiss, vice president of marketing for Celeno, in Ra'anana, Israel.

Celeno was founded in 2005 to create Wi-Fi chips for home wireless networks. The goal was to create chips that wirelessly distribute several high-def video streams at the same time throughout a home. Today, the chips are used by more than 75 service providers in the wireless routers and gateways they provide their residential customers. Investors include Cisco, Greylock IL Partners, Liberty Global and others.

Wi-Fi is a collision-based protocol, Weiss points out, with the air as the transport medium. "The scarcest resource is access to the air," he says. Regardless of how many clients associate to it, any access point "converses" with only one at a time. As the number of clients increase, "typically the access point struggles with allocating enough time to serve them all," Weiss says. "You end up with sub-optimal throughput for some clients."

"Depending on the application layer and streaming protocol, you can have cases in which clients with a poor signal are hogging the air," he says. "You may be watching your Netflix movie on your tablet, just three meters from the access point, but an iPhone outside your house, with one antenna, logs in. It can end up comprising the tablet."


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