WiGig Alliance Makes Push for HD Specification
The Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig), an organization formed in May to develop an industry specification for high-definition wireless data sent over the 60-GHz band, is on a mission to create "wireless homes" and eliminate the need for HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables. The technology is progressing quickly and a specification is targeted for late this year, making WiGig's vision only a few months away from reality. "[We] envision a global wireless ecosystem of extremely high performance consumer electronics, handheld devices, and personal computers that work together seamlessly to connect people to the information and content that matters to them," said Mark Grodzinsky, the WiGig marketing chair.
WiGig, however, is a late entry among several groups working toward an uncompressed wireless solution for high-definition content. The Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) is in development as the next step for high-definition television and other displays, although it will operate in the more constricted 5-GHz band. Operating in the same 60-GHz space as WiGig is Wireless HD, a specification that came out in January 2008 and has already been implemented in some devices.
Both WiGig and Wireless HD offer high-speed transfer rates at greater than 1 Gbyte per second, connecting a multitude of devices, including game consoles, cameras, and mobile phones, in a single room. Reports about WiGig's arrival were quick to call it a Wireless HD competitor. However, insiders with both organizations don't see it that way. Instead, they say the two technologies will eventually work side by side, offering similar but different functions.
"The industry wants a gigabit-speed technology that can be used across multiple applications on many different platforms," Grodzinsky said in an e-mail. "The WiGig specification achieves this goal, and has the support of major players from each of these segments, to ensure we keep to our mission."
Grodzinsky sees the industry as a whole looking for a broader solution set, but he also sees "a set of consumer electronics customers that will only require the wireless HDMI functionality that WiHD provides. Therefore, we do not expect that WiGig and WiHD will be competing for sockets, but rather will both serve their customers side by side in the marketplace."
John Marshall, chair of the Wireless HD consortium, noted that his technology already has plenty of momentum in the 60-GHz space. The group is currently developing its next-generation specification, version 1.1, and nearly 60 companies have signed up as promoters and adopters. Chipset maker SiBeam is driving much of the development.
Some of the adopters, such as Toshiba and Samsung, have signed up for both WiGig and Wireless HD, and Marshall says the situation indicates how the industry sees the future of wireless. "I think that the promoters of WiGig and the promoters of Wireless HD don't see a competitive dynamic," he said.
The Wireless HD consortium also has a coexistence subcommittee to ensure that there is no interference with the technologies, a problem that has appeared often in WiFi.
"Really, what you're looking at with WiGig is very high speed data sync. What you're looking at with Wireless HD is a wireless communication platform for audio-video data entertainment with multimedia," Marshall said. "Take for example a phone. If you've got data that I want to move back and forth on that phone, you’re going to consider a WiGig solution. If you're going to consider whether that phone is a mutimedia device, then you're going to think of a Wireless HD solution. With WiGig you're going to move data very fast. With Wireless HD, you can move data fast but you can also stream it to a TV."
Another factor that must be considered for WiGig to move forward is the IEEE standards committee, which currently has a working group for 802.11ad in the 60-GHz band. According to Grodzinsky, the WiGig Alliance plans to contribute to the standard, which isn't expected to arrive until at least 2012.
Craig Mathias, a well-respected wireless consultant, said in his assessment of WiGig’s future that the timeframe likely means that some form of competition is inevitable.
"I expect WiGig member companies to have products based on their technology well before 2012, perhaps leading to a standards war down the road," Mathias said. "As always, the market will decide."