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Wireless In-Room, In-Home HD Video Readied

Wireless has come of age as a reliable way to replace HDMI video cables within a room and transmit HD video throughout the house, advocates of competing solutions said during a Parks Associates seminar here at International CES this month.

Panelists, however, were split over whether consumers are more interested in wireless for replacing HDMI cables within a room or for distributing HD video throughout the house. “We surveyed consumers worldwide, and 75 percent said in-room connectivity is their priority,” said John Marshall, chairman of WirelessHD, a consortium of CE companies supporting the technology. Lior Weiss, marketing VP of fabless semiconductor startup Celeno, disagreed. He claimed consumers are more interested in such applications as using a multi-room DVR to transmit different programs to different TVs throughout the house.

Whatever application proves more popular, wireless HD-video pipes have matured to the point that multiple consumer products incorporating various wireless technologies are on display at CES, panelists said. The displayed consumer products here at CES incorporate the 60GHz uncompressed WirelessHD standard, TZero’s compressed ultrawideband technology, and Amimon’s uncompressed 5GHz technology. For their part, ProVision and Celeno are hosting demonstrations of their compressed wireless technologies, both based on the 5GHz-band IEEE 802.11n standard.

WirelessHD is an in-room solution that sends uncompressed HD video up to 33 feet away with a resolution of up to 1080p at 60Hz. Within a room, video sources can be placed away from a flat-panel TV in less conspicuous places, including behind the wood doors of an A/V cabinet. Multiple streams can coexist at one time within a room.

TZero’s ultrawideband solution sends 30 fps 1080p video in compressed form up to 30 feet away through a “wall or two,” said TZero senior marketing director David Borison. The technology can be used to replace cables within a room, but it also enables consumers to place video sources in an adjacent room or in a closet dedicated to A/V equipment. The technology can be used in stationary or portable devices in a home.

In contrast, Amimon’s technology and the planned Amimon-based Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) standard are whole-house solutions that distribute uncompressed 1080p HD video up to about 100 feet to stationary or portable devices, said Noam Geri, Amimon’s marketing and business development. VP These technologies use the 5GHz spectrum also used by IEEE 802.11a/n. The WHDI standard is being developed by Amimon and major CE manufacturers.

The Celeno and ProVision solutions are also whole-house solutions that support portable and stationary devices, though they send 1080p video in compressed form. Celeno’s technology transmits four HD streams up to about 130 feet through up to four walls, said Celeno’s Weiss.

In outlining product-availability timelines, WirelessHD’s Marshall said WirelessHD: consumer products will be available in the first half of this year. At CES, he said, Panasonic and LG unveiled HDTVs with built-in WirelessHD, with Panasonic announcing summer availability and LG citing 2009 availability. Toshiba also showed a WirelessHD product, Marshall said.

After the event, Panasonic told TWICE that its 54-inch Z1 plasma, due in the summer, will incorporate built-in WirelessHD to communicate with an outboard ATSC tuner box, which will also stream content from connected video sources to the display. Pricing on the 1-inch-thin model wasn’t announced.

Also at the show, the WirelessHD consortium, whose members include major CE companies, demonstrated prototype WirelessHD transmitters from Panasonic and Toshiba. The transmitters can be connected to video sources such as Blu-ray players and set-top boxes.

Gefen displayed transmitter/receiver combos using the WirelessHD, TZero, and Amimon technologies. The TZero-based combo is already available, said TZero’s Borison.

Consumer products incorporating the Amimon-based WHDI standard will ship sometime this year, said Amimon’s Geri. Celeno’s chip solution, said Weiss, is available to CE suppliers.