Industry Giants Back Ultra-Fast 60GHz Wireless

MobilityWLAN

But they’re not exactly forthcoming about what it will offer, or when

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Tech industry giants including Microsoft and Intel have given their backing to a group planning to offer ultra-fast communications over the so-far-unused 60GHz radio spectrum – but have not as yet answered any of the obvious technology questions.

The Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) Alliance intends to create a standard for communications over 60GHz, to provide very fast communications over short ranges, between devices such as TVs, phone and PCs. The group, which includes Intel, Dell, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and many others, has promised a specification by the end of the year, but has not given any details about the performance it expects from its technology, or the way it will relate to existing technologies such as Wi-Fi or Ultra-Wideband (UWB ).

“WiGig Alliance is developing a 60 GHz wireless technology that provides the optimal way to connect consumer electronics, handheld devices and personal computers,” says WiGig’s press release, and an accompanying slide presentation beyond listing the members and promising 60GHz will offer Gigabit speeds, “ten times faster than today’s WLANs”.

In fact, 60GHz has been discussed for some years, but faces basic RF difficulties. Higher frequencies propagate less well in air, and 60GHz is expected to have a range of a couple of metres, and also only work on a line of sight. This is similar to the physical properties of infra-red, whose wavelength starts at around 300GHz.

So 60GHz will work a little like infra-red communications, only potentially at far higher speeds. Agilent has demonstrated modules which communicate at 4Gbps over 10m using an existing 60GHz standard, WirelessHD. Other demonstrations claim speeds as high as 15Gbps

The relation between WiGig and WirelessHD is not clear, though the groups have members in common. Nor are WiGig’s reasons for rejecting ultra-wideband (UWB) as a means to do short-range Gigabit communications.

UWB has been written off for some years, but is starting to emerge in products such as the Leyio. If it can be made to work, it is expected to use a lot less power than 60GHz communications, where WirelessHD is described as “power hungry”.

A voice conference between eWEEK Europe and the chair of WiGig, Intel’s Ali Sadri, broke down, and Dr Sadri has been unable to give more information by email at the time of writing. In the press release, Dr Sadri says: “Our member companies are leaders in the wireless, CE, PC and handheld markets. They have the technical acumen and business experience to make the 60 GHz wireless technology a reality for both the home and enterprise.”

WiGig members include Atheros, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell, MediaTek, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung and Wilocity. The website will be live on Thursday morning.

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