A group of big-name technology companies including Intel (s INTC), Dell (s DELL), Broadcom (s BRCM) and Marvell (s MRVL) have joined together to promote a new wireless standard that could deliver between 1 gigabit per second to 6 Gbps inside the home. Chipmaking startup Wilocity is also part of the effort.
The Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) Alliance plans to use the 60 GHz spectrum, already in use for other types of high-data-rate wireless transmissions, for a variety of functions such as replacing the HDMI cable between a TV and a computer. Other options include delivering wireless gaming and home storage networking. The specification for the standard should be set by the end of this year, and devices containing the chips could be sold as early as 2010.
The alliance expects the chips will eventually be inside everything from computers to camcorders so that large files can be transmitted wirelessly without latency issues. Because the 60 GHz spectrum is relatively uncluttered, and doesn’t pass through walls easily, there’s little concern about interference from overlapping networks.
The downside to this is that the technology is limited to one room, and it generally requires a line-of-sight connection to transmit the signals. The WiGig Alliance (and other companies promoting 60 GHz radios) gets around this line-of-sight limitation by bouncing the signal off walls, and even people, making it less of an issue, unless your living room is particularly cavernous.
The spectrum the alliance will use is a popular one, with companies such as SiBeam using it to deliver uncompressed HD video inside the home based on the WirelessHD standard. The IEEE is also planning to use the spectrum for its next-generation high-throughput Wi-Fi effort, known as 802.11ad. William McFarland, CTO of Atheros (s ATHR), a member of the WiGig Alliance, says alliance members also are part of the relevant IEEE committee and will shepherd the IEEE plans and the WiGig Alliance specification efforts, so that both standards are complimentary.
McFarland also says the WirelessHD efforts are not competing with WiGig Alliance plans, or even with HD video transmission technologies from companies such as Amimon (which uses the same spectrum Wi-Fi does). That’s the diplomatic answer, but the truth is, few consumer electronics manufacturers are going to see value in placing multiple chips that do the same thing inside their products.
WirelessHD and Amimon’s WHDI standard, which are both targeted at transmitting uncompressed wireless HD video (but can do other high-data rate applications in the case of WirelessHD) will find it hard to compete against a general-purpose WiGig standard that can do uncompressed wireless HD video and more. The best things WirelessHD and Amimon have going for them right now are their standards are set and both have products already shipping in the market. But the intrusion of such a powerful alliance in their market is nothing to scoff at.