Wireless Groups Announce New Specs

Standards Would Ship HD Content Between Devices

The WiGig Alliance and the Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) have announced the completion of specifications for the wireless delivery of high-definition content to variety of devices, including TVs, PCs and mobile gear.

Connected TV sets, which allow users to connect to the Internet or move content wirelessly around the home, are expected to be a major highlight of next month's 2010 International Consumer Electronics in Las Vegas. These announcements highlight the growing competition to develop systems to offer wireless connectivity between TVs and a variety of other devices.

Such systems could provide multichannel operators with a new way to set up home networks or whole-home DVRs to connect multiple HD sets.

"The WHDI specification can deliver uncompressed HD to different TVs around the home," said Leslie Chard, president of the consortium backed by such companies as Sony, Sharp, LG, Samsung, Amimon and Motorola, which is interested in offering the technology to multichannel providers. "You wouldn't need to add set-top boxes in each room.

"It would mean fewer truck rolls, lower costs and [would allow operators to] sell high-value connectivity" between devices, which could also encourage consumers to buy more HD content, in Chard's view.

But the development of wireless technologies to transmit HD content easily from PCs to TVs and other devices could also pose a threat to the multichannel business by making it easier to access so-called over-the-top content.

Several consortiums, some of which have overlapping support from consumer-electronics and chip manufacturers, are working to develop wireless solutions. These include WirelessHD Consortium, which has already completed a specification for delivering uncompressed HD content over the 60-Gigahertz wireless spectrum, the WiGig Alliance and WHDI.

The WiGig Alliance -- backed by nearly 30 companies, including such giants as Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Nokia, Panasonic and Toshiba -- announced its first specification this month.

WiGig has a number of advantages over other technologies, said Mark Grodzinsky, board director and marketing work group chair of WiGig Alliance and vice president of marketing at Wilocity.

Using the 60-Gigahertz frequency, it is capable of transmitting data at up to 7 Gigabits per second, 10 times faster than the highest 802.11n rate and enough for uncompressed HD content, he explained in a briefing.

It also supplements and extends the 802.11 Medium Access Control layer, making it compatible with Wi-Fi devices based on the IEEE 802.11 standard; it works across all three wireless frequencies (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz), making it possible to build triple-band devices; it is very adaptable to a variety of high and low power devices, from TV to smaller, battery operated mobile devices; and it allows beamforming, which would allow content to be sent to more distant devices than before.

Products based on the specification won't be available anytime soon. Members are currently reviewing the standard, which will be delivered to potential adopters in the first quarter of 2010.

"During the middle of 2011, we should have all the test houses ready to start certifying products," said WiGig Alliance chairman and president Ali Sadri. Sadri is also the director of WPAN and 60 GHz standards at Intel, where he reports to the chief technical officer of the Mobile Wireless Division.

Roadmaps for new product rollouts will be up to individual companies, but the timetable should mean that products based on the spec will be available to consumers during the 2011 holiday season.

The WHDI standard uses the 5-Gigahertz spectrum currently used by most wireless devices. While this spectrum provides less bandwidth for high quality video, WHDI is using technology from Amimon that allows uncompressed HD video to be transmitted 100 plus feet through walls with little latency, noted WHDI's Chard.

Using the 5-GHz spectrum provides WHDI with a major advantage, Chard adds, because it creates a whole home solution. In contrast, signals using the 60 GHz spectrum can currently only travel for around 10 meters, making that technology most suitable for connecting devices within a single room, he argued.

Some products based on the WHDI technology have been in the market since 2008, but Chard doesn't see products based on the standard hitting stores until the second or third quarter of 2010.

While WHDI is currently available in high-end HDTV, chip prices are also rapidly dropping. "I think you will see them start to appear in middle and low end of the market in 2010," Chard said.