Wireless HD Delivery Race Heats Up

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With two
groups already touting competing technologies for the wireless transmission of
high-definition content in the home, a third group, the Wireless Gigabit
(WiGig) Alliance, is stepping up its efforts and has said it will compete with
a specification for its own high-speed wireless solution by the end of the
year.

The WiGig
Alliance, backed by a number of major computer, semiconductor and consumer-electronics
companies, was set up to spur the development of a wide variety of consumer
devices that would be capable of wirelessly sending HD programming, data and
other content over 60 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum at speeds 10 times faster than
current wireless networks, explained Mark Grodzinsky, chair of the marketing
working group for WiGig Alliance and vice president of marketing for member
company Wilocity.

If WiGig
Alliance can complete its so-called WiGig Specification this year, the group
hopes to put together an infrastructure to test and certify devices by the
second half of 2010. That means consumer products using its 60 GHz technologies
won't hit the market until the latter part of 2010 or 2011.

The plans
by WiGig Alliance and two other competing groups -- the WirelessHD Consortium
and the Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) -- are important because they
highlight growing interest in wireless technologies to move HD content around
the home.

While
consumers have rapidly embraced wireless technologies, bandwidth limitations
make it impossible to quickly transmit HD programming and other large files
over current wireless networks, Grodzinsky said.

Wireless
technologies using the 60-GHz spectrum would overcome that problem. "They can achieve
the multi-Gigabit-per-second speeds you need to move that kind of content," he
said.

The group's
board members include consumer-electronics manufacturers like LG, Panasonic,
Samsung and NEC, as well as such semiconductor firms Atheros Communications,
Broadcom, Intel, Marvell Technology Group, MediaTek and Wilocity, Grodzinsky
noted. Cell-phone maker Nokia is also a member.

Grodzinsky
stressed, however, that the group's efforts weren't limited to transmitting HD
content and that its specification would allow a wide array of small handheld
mobile devices, PCs and mobile phones, as well as TVs and video players, to
communicate with each other at very high speeds.

While
high-speed wireless technologies have attracted a lot of interest, it is too
early to say which of the competing groups and technologies is likely to
triumph. Some major manufacturers appear to have hedged their bets by joining
more than one group. Samsung, for example, is a member of all three groups.

WHDI, which
claims to be the furthest along in bringing products to the market, uses the
unlicensed 5-GHz spectrum. Signals sent over the 5-GHz spectrum travel further
than signals sent over 60 GHz, which are generally limited in range to one
room.

As a result,
the WHDI solution is capable of sending HD content throughout the home. But the
bandwidth limitations of the 5-GHz spectrum mean it can't transmit all the bits
that make up the HD stream.

"You can't
see the difference in the image quality but you can't do data networking with a
technology that drops some bits and sends other bits so their technology is
inherently going to be used for distributing video," Grodzinsky argued. "They
can do IP networks but the speeds would be much lower than what they can
achieve for video."

Like the
WiGig Alliance, the competing WirelessHD Consortium also uses the 60 GHz
spectrum, which allows uncompressed HD content to be transmitted between TVs, set-top
boxes and other devices at very high data rates.

"The
WirelessHD Consortium has been very focused on removing the HDMI cable but they
haven't focused on IP-networking or on servicing multiple devices," Grodzinsky
said. "While streaming uncompressed video is very important for the WiGig
alliance, it is equally important that we have technology to serve all these
platforms. That is how I would differentiate our group."

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