WiGig Alliance Plans Short-Range Wireless Standard

Heavy hitters LG Electronics, Microsoft, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, and partners are up against 802.11n Wi-Fi technology.
Does the in-home wireless market need another technology that promises to link together devices ranging from PCs and HDTVs to cell phones and camcorders?

A group of 17 major consumer electronics, PC, and semiconductor companies believes the answer is yes and has formed the WiGig Alliance to use the 60-GHz spectrum to develop a short-range technology that would connect devices in a large room.

The alliance boasts many prominent high-tech companies, including Intel, which seems to be spearheading the project, and Atheros, Broadcom, Dell, LG Electronics, Marvel, MediaTek, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, NXP, Panasonic, Realtek, Samsung STMicroelectronics, Tensorcom, and Wilocity.

The group has said it expects to develop a specification by the end of the year and some members are predicting that the first consumer products will begin to appear a year or so after that. Video downloads and other large transfers of data would likely be a particularly appealing application, because most existing in-home wireless technologies are still hampered in that application.

In choosing the 60-GHz unlicensed band, alliance members cited its general availability on a global basis as well as its capability of delivering high transfer rates. But the 60-GHz band has a short range and for it to be effective, it will likely need repeaters, possibly Wi-Fi devices.

Indeed, Wi-Fi, which is rapidly becoming ubiquitous in homes with entertainment and electronics devices, could represent both a blessing and a curse. In-Stat analyst Brian O'Rourke has predicted that 802.11n technology will dominate the wireless HD market over the next several years, and he has questioned whether another wireless technology like WiGig is necessary.

"802.11n is the next generation of the immensely popular Wi-Fi family," he wrote in a recent research note. "It promises data rates above 100 Mbps and is backwards compatible. The installed base of Wi-Fi is immense and effectively includes all mobile PCs, many mobile phones, and a wide variety of CE devices."

WiGig marketing chairman Mark Grodzinsky of Intel has noted that the WiGig Alliance expects to work with the IEEE's 802.11n committee to develop standards in a cooperative manner.

A few companies, including SiBeam, have been developing products in the 60-GHz band.

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