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WiGig Alliance To Create In-Room Wireless Standard

Seventeen consumer electronics, PC and semiconductor companies have formed the Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) Alliance to develop a 60GHz-band in-room wireless technology suitable for use in high-definition TVs, PCs, PC peripherals, laptops, cellphones, portable media players (PMPs), digital cameras, camcorders and other battery-operated handheld devices.

The group expects to finalize a spec by the end of the year, then create a testing program in 2010 to certify the interoperability of WiGig devices. Certified products with a WiGig logo would follow sometime later, the alliance said without getting specific.

Alliance board members are Atheros, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell, MediaTek, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung and Wilocity. Contributing members are NXP, Realtek, STMicroelectronics and Tensorcom.

The technology’s bandwidth will support real-time streaming of high-definition 1080p 60Hz video in uncompressed form with low latency, yet it will be built from the ground up with the power-consumption efficiencies needed for use in battery-operated handheld devices for speedy file transfers of a minimum of 1GB, said Mark Grodzinsky, chairman of the alliance’s marketing working group.

All WiGig-specified devices, including battery-operated devices, will be able to communicate at a minimum of 1Gbps, he said, but non-battery-operated products would be able to communicate at up to 6Gbps, enough to stream one uncompressed 1080p 60Hz video program.

Streaming HD video in uncompressed form is vital for use with PC- and console-based games, which store video in uncompressed form and require the low latency provided by uncompressed signals to ensure on-screen action responds quickly to gamers’ commands, Atheros chief technology officer Bill McFarland added.

With products incorporating the standard, data transfers that now take minutes over multi-room 802.11n wireless LANs will take only seconds over WiGig at a range up to 10 meters, Grodzinsky said.

Low-power handheld devices would be able transmit at speeds up to around 2.5Gbps at about 2 meters. To stream 1080p 60Hz video from a portable device to a TV or PC, however, the portable device would require some sort of “low-latency, low-memory and low-complexity compression scheme,” Grodzinsky noted.

WiGig technology will compete with a multigigabit 60GHz-band technology developed by the WirelessHD group, whose technology also transmits 60Hz 1080p video in uncompressed form at up to 10 meters within a room. WirelessHD will be included in a top-end Panasonic plasma TV and select LG HDTVs due this year.

The WiGig Alliance, however, contended its technology goes a step farther because it’s a “multipurpose” communications standard built from the ground up “to ensure multiple platforms, including battery-operated handheld devices, can use our technology and move data at gigabit [throughput] speeds,” Grodzinsky said in pointing to the standard’s planned power-consumption efficiency.

“It does not need to be retrofitted or adapted for future applications,” a spokesperson added. “We’re not only developing the MAC and PHY layer. We’re also developing protocol adaptation layers for different applications.”

The WirelessHD group, in contrast, has focused on transmitting high-definition video from set-top boxes to HD displays, McFarland said. A 60GHz wireless intended as an HDMI cable replacement, Grodzinsky added, “is incomplete.”

Last year, a WirelessHD executive told TWICE that laptops and digital camcorders equipped with WirelessHD could begin appearing within five years of the first WirelessHD-equipped TVs, but he didn’t mention the technology’s potential for cellphones and PMPs.

With WiGig, battery-operated devices are unlikely to be among the first WiGig products available to consumers, based on past experience, the alliance admitted. “There are internal architecture changes that will likely be required with many handhelds to handle the speeds we will provide,” a spokesperson said.

WiGig will deliver speeds more than 10 times faster than multi-room 802.11n technology and faster than the single-room wireless USB technology, which clocks in at a maximum 480Mpbs at 3 meters and 110Mbps at 10 meters, the alliance said. Neither 802.11n nor wireless USB have the bandwidth to stream HD video in uncompressed form.