More details are emerging about home security and automation company Vivint’s plans to connect Utah homes wirelessly. It plans to use the gigabit Wi-Fi technologies to create high-capacity mesh network links on its customers’ rooftops.
Last month, Vivint VP of innovation Jeremy Warren told Gigaom that Vivint was trialing a 50 Mbps residential broadband service for $55 a month in unnamed communities in Utah. But apart from revealing that Vivint was using the unlicensed airwaves — the same spectrum used by our Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices — to make the terminal connection to the home, Warren didn’t reveal any other details.
On Wednesday, though, high-performance Wi-Fi chipmaker Quantenna announced Vivint is using its gigabit Wi-Fi chips in its network, as well as making a strategic investment in the startup. In the process, it painted a better picture of the broadband system Vivint is using. Vivint is using Quantenna’s Wi-Fi technologies to create rooftop mesh networks that connect back to a neighborhood hub, which in turn links to a fiber node through a point-to-point microwave connection.
Vivint is currently using Quantenna’s 802.11n chips in its rooftop gear, but starting in the second half of the year it will upgrade to Quantenna’s most advanced 802.11ac technologies. This isn’t the 802.11ac that’s in your AirPort Extreme router. It’s a newer version called Wave 2, which makes use of multi-user multiple input–multiple output (MU-MIMO) smart antenna techniques to deliver powerful broadband links to several different devices separately.
The first Wave 2 routers are starting to make their way into the market, but no smartphones or laptops can take advantage of their full capabilities yet. A mesh topology can, though, because both the transmitting and receiving device have the same technical capabilities.
Quantenna says its Wave 2 chip with four spatial MIMO streams can handle up to 2Gbps in connection speed, but Vivint obviously isn’t offering that kind of bandwidth to its end users. In a mesh network your rooftop connection isn’t just carrying your internet traffic, but also the traffic of your neighbors as it hops from antenna to antenna to the local hub. Building a gigabit Wi-Fi network, however, will help Vivint create larger mesh topologies that string together more nodes before those connections need to find their way back to the internet proper.