Wireless HD Solutions Vie For Acceptance

By Greg Tarr On Mar 26 2012 - 4:01am




NEW YORK – An increasingly popular trend in U.S. households over the past several years has been to network big screen TVs and home entertainment systems with mobile PCs, tablets, smartphones and televisions located in other areas of the home.

The easiest way to accomplish this in most settings is wirelessly, but current 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi technology lacks the bandwidth for robust, uncompressed Full HD 1080p video and high-resolution gaming, particularly in settings where multiple streams may be running at one time.

The ideal solution would easily relay uncompressed (or losslessly compressed) HD content stored on new generation tablets and smartphones to TV screens, and to store digital content on devices that act as central servers, enabling remote TVs to access that content from other locations through the use of thin-client boxes or digital playback devices linked over wired and/or wireless networks.

Since 2007, a number of approaches have been developed to provide faster speeds and lower latency (lagging) issues. But the high cost of these approaches, low awareness and confusion over the field of competitors has limited broad-scale adoption to date.

The current contenders include: WirelessHD, Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) and WiGig, among the uncompressed/lightly compressed Full HD approaches, and Intel’s WiDi (aka Wi-Fi Display), as a compressed alternative.

Speaking at a recent DisplaySearch Flat Panel Display Forum, Brian O’Rourke, NPD/In-Stat digital entertainment research director, said to succeed long-term the uncompressed systems will need accelerate their adoption rates within the next two years.

The following is a look at where each approach stands today:

WirelessHD (WiHD), now in its fourth generation, is being championed by Silicon Image (the driving force behind the ubiquitous wired HDMI standard) as a wireless HDMI alternative for linking source devices and TV displays together in spaces were wires are difficult.

This approach allows delivery of wireless high-definition audio and video signal transmissions using 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi in the home while also running a WiHD connection. The standard was finalized in January 2008 by a consortium of companies headed by SiBEAM (later acquired by Silicon Image), including Broadcam, Intel, LG, Panasonic, NEC, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba, among others. In 2012 the original seven member companies have opened up into something called the Wireless HDMI Forum, which now lists close to 50 companies.

The WirelessHD (WiHD) standard is based on the 7Gbps of continuous bandwidth using 60GHz radio frequency and allowing for uncompressed, digital transmission of FullHD video, audio and data signals. This makes it an equivalent to HDMI, offering in its first generation high data rates from 4Gbps.

The band requires line of sight between transmitter and receiver, but can extend its range using transmitter antennas.

The standard has somewhat limited range. It was developed more as an in-room technology than a whole-home network technology. Uses to date have focused mainly on PCs and notebooks, but it is available via adapters to CE devices as well. The future for the technology will depend on getting more embedded WirelessHD CE solutions to build on the success it has achieved in the PC segment.

Wireless Home Digital Interface
(WHDI) also calls for short range applications to replace cables between video sources and televisions. Core technology backers include Motorola and Amimon.

The WHDI standard supports delivery of high-quality, uncompressed wireless audio/video signals at data rates up to 3Gbps in a 40MHz channel in the 5GHz unlicensed band. System range exceeds 100 feet through walls.

The focus is on personal electronics and computer applications, and is primarily available through external adapter solutions. Applications to date have been in vertical segments, including endoscopic and other medical video camera systems and in broadcast cameras. It transmits uncompressed HD video wirelessly.

WiGig, meanwhile, is being championed by the joined forces of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance and the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) to develop a multi-gigabit wireless match for the Display- Port v1.2 standard. The WiGig system is designed to connect PCs, handhelds and other devices to monitors, projectors and HDTVs, offering interoperability and quality that is the equivalent of wired systems.

WiGig advocates use of a 60GHz wireless technology, similar to Wireless HD. Data rates run up to 7Gbps. The mission of the format was to offer a broad solution for CE devices, personal computers, personal electronics and mobile phones.

In 2010, the WiGig Alliance announced a partnership with the Wi-Fi Alliance to create a 60GHz wireless classification now known as 802.11ad. This gave WiGig increased visibility and credibility in the market. The first target application of WiGig was in wireless docking, which enabled data transmission from a mobile PC to a wireless docking solution that, in-turn, connects to all the PC peripherals on the desktop. This way tablets, PCs and ultrabooks can be made smaller and smaller without the size of a wired port becoming an issue.

Mark Grodzinsky, marketing VP for WiGig supporter Wilocity, said the spec is designed to offer different transports for different uses. “It’s not one-size-fits-all,” he said, adding that workspace enablement may be best served with a direct-to-patch wireless video approach, sending a display signal over I/O video ports. Where there is the need for networked video, such as the home, multiple devices can connect to the TV using H.264 encoding and decoding over Wi-Fi.

“We can take Wi-Fi Display, which does H.264 and 5GHz, with high compression and latency and then we can expand that to 6GHz, which is an amendment to the Wi-Fi spec,” said Grodzinsky, “so, I don’t think of it as WiGig or Wi-Fi – WiGig is Wi-Fi.”

In-Stat’s O’Rourke predicted that among the uncompressed solutions through 2015, WiGig will have the lion’s share of the market, because multiple silicon vendors will be adopting the technology. WiGig, as a party to the Wi-Fi specification, also has significant credibility among the large volume manufacturers.

WiDi was first introduced by Intel, at the 2010 International CES to simplify the connection of a PC to a video display without the hassle of connecting HDMI cables. Now being standardized as Wi-Fi Display, the technology is based off the underlying WiFi Direct technology that enables peer-to-peer wireless connections. It is built into a laptop to transmit a signal to a receiver/adapter connected to the HDMI port on an HD display. Software in the laptop pairs with the receiver.

The end-to-end system uses compression, requiring video capture, encoding and transmission and introduces issues with latency issues (and possible packet loss).

Intel has launched two generations of the WiDi, and the format has been adopted by PC OEMs. It is essentially a software solution on top of a Wi-Fi chip and uses Intel’s Wi-Fi Direct standard for connected two Wi-Fi devices directly without the need of an access point.

The use case is to connect mobile PCs with televisions. The specification will be published around the middle of the year with devices expected by the end of the year.

The big advantage it has is that it can piggyback off of the success of Wi-Fi. If the device does not have HD encoding or decoding, you will have to add that at an additional price. All together, it can add up to 2.5 times the cost of Wi-Fi solution.

O’Rourke said he expects Wi-Fi Display to be highly successful technology because it “builds on technology that is already in the products.”

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