We could have 3Gbps wireless within the next year or two – and with giant backers, WiGig looks like over-riding any arguments
The WiGig Alliance has revealed more details of its bid to make a fast – up to 6Gbps – short-range wireless LAN standard.
The thirteen firms in the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig), including Dell, Nokia and Microsoft as well as wireless silicon makers Intel, Broadcom, Atheros and Marvell, are proposing the 60GHz waveband for fast wireless connections. There’s around 7GHz of spectrum unlicensed and free to use in almost all countries, so it’s possible to make devices which communicate at several gigabits per second, although there is only a very short range for radio waves with a frequency this high.
WiGig says this will be used for home consumer devices for jobs like streaming video, but will tune its technology for the TCP/IP protocol. It has promised a specification by the end of the year, which it is very likely to offer to the IEEE for its 60GHz wireless standard. The IEEE standard is grouped with the 802.11 Wi-Fi and will be known as 802.11ad.
“They’re unrelated to 802.11, Wi-Fi, and WHDI,” analyst Craig Mathias of Farpoint Group told eWEEK Europe. “This looks like a pre-emptive strike at influencing 802.11ad, although I think these guys will have product far in advance of the standard.” They are also unrelated to the WirelessHD standard, already proposed for fast video communications in the home.
A wireless that can replace Ethernet?
“I’m not expecting 60 GHz. technologies to replace 802.11n wholesale because of range limitations,” said Mathias on his blog, “but the whole gigabit opportunity brings wireless into absolute parity with wired Ethernet – and significantly better, in fact, in terms of throughput and perhaps eventually even with respect to price/performance.”
Users are using more video content, and 60GHz should help them as high-definition (HD) video arrives, says Glenn Fleishman in Wi-Fi Net News: “The high data rates allow uncompressed HD video – ghly 3 Gbps – hich avoids the current expense, possible image degradation, and latency of adding H.264 chips or other compression hardware between the transmitter and receiver.”
The group has been working together for perhaps as long as 18 months, and already has 80 percent of its specification complete (but only visible to members), according to EE Times. These are likely to include a high-power version, which can send high-definition video over room-size distances of around 10m, and a low-power option which cuts the electrical power consumption so mobile devices can send data at similar speeds over short distances. One member of the group, Atheros, is already talking about building the technology into multi-band systems alongside existing Wi-Fi, which already operates on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
So is it all over for UWB?
The group has got a head start, and as many big names together as possible, outside the standards bodies to avoid the public in-fighting and fragmentation which harmed – and some say killed – ultrawideband (UWB). That technology is not, in fact dead – UWB has eventually appeared in products, notably the Leyio sharing device
“When UWB was initially proposed, the FCC hadn’t approved it,” said Fleishman. “Ultimately, regulators worldwide allowed UWB, but some have highly restricted the spectrum range, which reduces the number of simultaneous networks and devices, and requires more flexibility in product design. The 60 GHz effort starts with worldwide regulation already in place.”
Although existing 60GHz technology has been criticised for demanding lots of electric power, WiGig will reduce that, for instance by minimising the use of repeats in error correction schemes.
The group has a strong membership, including all the major Wi-Fi silicon vendors. Up the hardware stack, it has handset makers (LG and Samsung alongside Nokia mentioned above) and others. “Notably absent is Apple, which rarely joins standards groups at their inception, but is often an early adopter and later board member.” Said Fleishman. “Sony is also missing from this list.”
With those backers, WiGig looks likely to steamroller other contenders such as the WirelessHD Consortium. Broadcom, Intel, LG, Samsung are currently members of both groups, but may have jumped ship now the WiGig cruiser has steamed into view.
“This appears highly divisive and fragmenting for the industry given that they are promoting a pre-pre-pre 802.11ad solution, rather than unifying such initiatives,” John Marshall, chairman of WirelessHD, and founder of its leading light SiBeam, said to EE Times. A SiBeam spokesperson told eWEEK Europe: “WirelessHD is the first and only official standard to deliver a complete specification that employs 60Ghz for wireless distribution of video, audio and data.. While the objectives of WiGig remain unclear any momentum in 60Ghz is a validation of the [WirelessHD] Consortium’s vision.”