Wireless HD Gets a New Standard Effort

An Israeli chip startup pushing a form of whole-home, uncompressed wireless HD has teamed up with Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Hitachi and Motorola to create a WHDI special interest group. The company, Amimon, already has products out on the market that offer wireless HD using the same 5 GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi.

Those products, and others to be released later this year will not necessarily be compatible with those made in the future according to the WHDI standard, but the backing of major manufacturers gives Amimon — and its technology — a boost. That’s important, because WHDI is up against a number of other wireless HD transmission standards, including Wireless HD, ultra-wideband and even Wi-Fi. WHDI SIG members Sony and Samsung are also members of the Wireless HD standard hoping to use 60GHz.

Noam Geri, Amimon’s co-founder and VP of marketing, explains that many of these competing technologies fail because they either can’t offer uncompressed HD or because, rather than being able to blanket the entire home, they only offer point-to-point wireless transmission. I admit that Geri’s propaganda gets seductive when he starts talking about how a DVD player containing a WHDI chip could transmit HD video to a TV in a different room. With Motorola as both an investor and a member of the SIG, Geri points out that this might one day work for set-top boxes as well.

Having a dedicated network for video that works like Wi-Fi would be awesome not only because I could directly transfer data from my camera or camcorder to my TV, but also because I could then use one PC or set-top box to stream video content around the home. But that’s a problem for the cable providers and ISPs — at least here in the U.S.

There are plenty of companies trying to get digital content to the TV, either through separate hardware or direct streaming. Having a WHDI chip in a PC and TV means you could wirelessly stream Hulu content to your TV, but it will look like crap because it’s not designed to appear on a 42-inch screen. We can blame that on a lack of fiber to the home as well as the massive amounts of bandwidth it would take to stream HD content to a TV.

Geri, however, remains undeterred. He envisions a future for web video in which viewers have the option of a low-resolution image or TV-quality image, much like web sites used to have alternate pages for dial-up and broadband. Even if this glorious utopia comes to fruition, there’s still the matter of the ISP. Bandwidth caps will interfere and the cable guys will fight tooth and nail to keep their role as the content gatekeepers.

I’m actually pretty skeptical that we’ll even see these chips in boxes sold to U.S. cable companies anytime soon. Which means that not only will I still need multiple cable boxes around my home, but WHDI looks a lot less compelling. DVD players are cheap enough that I don’t mind having multiple ones around my home, and I don’t have this huge need to see it wirelessly connected to my TV.

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