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WiGig Alliance to push for fast wireless streaming

Stephen Lawson | May 7, 2009
The group, with Intel and Microsoft's backing, wants to use unlicensed 60GHz spectrum for in-room applications

SAN FRANCISCO, 6 MAY 2009 - A group that includes Intel, Microsoft, Nokia and Panasonic plans to introduce a specification for short-range, gigabit-speed wireless networking by the end of this year.

The WiGig Alliance is developing a specification for using unlicensed 60GHz radio spectrum within a typical room. The group is set to announce the initiative on Thursday.

The technology could be used for a wide range of applications, including data transfers, entertainment and docking. It would complement Wi-Fi while eliminating many of the cables currently used to connect home consumer electronics products. The WiGig Alliance hopes to create an ecosystem of products that have low power consumption and are easy to use.

This area has been flooded with new technologies in recent years, including UWB (Ultrawideband), WirelessHD, and WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface), but none has really taken hold. The advent of HDTV, as well as Web-based streaming multimedia and increasing file sizes for digital photos and other content, is likely to drive demand for higher bandwidth for certain tasks than Wi-Fi can now deliver.

WiGig's powerful backers could give it the momentum to gain wider adoption. Chip makers Atheros, Broadcom, Marvell and MediaTek are on the group's board of directors, in addition to Intel. Dell, LG Electronics, Samsung and NEC also are on the board, along with a wireless Israeli startup called Wilocity. Contributing members include NXP, Realtek, STMicroelectronics and Tensorcom.

The group expects its specification to be available to member companies in the fourth quarter of this year. WiGig officials wouldn't predict when products would hit the market, but they hope to have interoperability testing in place next year and possibly certify some products by the end of 2010.

WiGig hopes to collaborate closely with the Wi-Fi Alliance as well as with the IEEE 802.11AD task group, which has just started developing a standard for high-speed wireless in the 60GHz band, said Mark Grodzinsky, WiGig's marketing chairman. Given that major contributors to IEEE 802.11 standards belong to the WiGig Alliance, it's likely that the group's work will influence the eventual IEEE standard, he said. Grodzinsky is also an executive at Intel.

The technology might eventually become part of a "tri-band Wi-Fi" that could provide connectivity over the 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 60GHz bands, at different speeds, depending on the strength of the signal in different locations around an access point, Grodzinsky said.

WiGig should be capable of delivering more than 6Gb per second (Gbps) at the physical layer, though certain kinds of overhead will reduce that speed in real-world use, said WiGig Chairman Ali Sadri. Because it uses such high frequencies, the technology will tend to have a shorter range than Wi-Fi, but advancements in antenna design could make its range comparable to 5GHz Wi-Fi, he said.


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