Electronics Vendors To Develop Wireless HD Spec - InformationWeek

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Electronics Vendors To Develop Wireless HD Spec

The goal is to agree on ways for transferring HD video and audio among multiple devices.

Major electronic manufacturers on Tuesday said they have banded together in developing a wireless specification for streaming high-definition video between consumer electronic devices.

The group, called WirelessHD, comprises LG Electronics Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., known for its Panasonic brand; NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and SiBeam Inc., a semiconductor maker for high-speed communications.

The purpose of the partnership is to develop specifications for transferring HD content, video and audio, between multiple devices. The technology, for example, could be used to move programming from a set-top box to a television, or between a digital video camera and a TV. The advantage would be in eliminating the need for wires to connect the devices.

The popularity of wireless technology is seen in the high-rate of adoption of wireless Wi-Fi that enables consumers to access the Internet with a desktop computer or laptop. Wi-Fi, however, does not meet the bandwidth requirements of even standard video, never mind HD streams.

WirelessHD would meet those demands by tapping into the unlicensed, globally available 60 GHz frequency band. The group expects to have a completed specification in spring 2007, with a chipset available for devices in 2008.

"The availability of high-definition wireless connections stands to eliminate the morass of cables, switches and other complexities traditionally needed to support the wide variety of devices consumers have and will continue to buy, such as HDTVs, HD disc players, digital video cameras and game consoles," John Marshall, chairman of WirelessHD, said in a statement.

The road to this technical nirvana, however, won't be easy.

"They have significant challenges, both technical and marketing," Brian O'Rourke, analyst with In-Stat/MDR, said.

Before the group can hope to move data at its goal of 25GB per second, it must first figure out a way to make such a high-frequency band penetrate walls, floors, and possibly even the cases of electronic devices, O'Rourke said. In addition, the technology developed to remove that hurdle would also have to be cheap enough for device manufacturers, which work within tight profit margins.

Marshall, however, said in an interview that WirelessHD is initially focused on in-room connections, with a maximum range of 10 meters. If the technology could penetrate rooms, then that would present a security problem for Hollywood studios, since it opens up the possibility of the signal being intercepted and movies copied.

WirelessHD members also have to show their commitment to the effort by spending the money needed, and avoid getting distracted by other similar projects. Samsung, Sony, LG Electronics, Matsushita, NEC, and Toshiba are also involved in the WiMedia Alliance, which is developing standards for high-speed wireless connections, called ultrawideband, for personal computers, consumer electronics and mobile devices.

"If (the members) are heavily invested in making WirelessHD work, then its chances of success are greatly enhanced," O'Rourke said.

Marshall said WiMedia has value in moving data from PCs to peripherals, storage devices and some consumer devices, but lacks the ability to move information at speeds necessary for high-definition video.

"They're complementary, but they're not competing," Marshall said of the two technologies.

The group has called on other high-tech companies and electronics manufacturers to join the effort, and has launched a Web site.

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