After three years, WirelessHD and the vaunted 60GHz bandwagon hasn't gone anywhere. Moreover, it hasn't showed up in any other interesting applications either. Why? It isn't because it can't be made to work.
Back in January of 2008 all of the online technical trade press was touting that Wireless HDMI based upon 57 to 64GHz (i.e 60GHz) spectrum had finally arrived in the form of WirelessHD. Targeting HDTVs and CE equipment, WirelessHD was supposed to be the panacea for wireless audio and video for the home. Everyone saw a few tech demos from major OEMs at CES in January 2008 and were told WirelessHD would ship by the 2008 holiday season. It didnít happen. At CES 2009 we saw the next round of hype, including announcements by some additional HDTV OEMS. Holiday season 2009, two expensive models shipped. Yawn. Then, at CES 2010, Vizio announced their 3D HDTVs would roll out with WirelessHD. That is nice Ė but so far it hasnít happened.
As of today [Oct 2010] Vizio has announced their latest HDTV lineup for the fall and WirelessHD is still not available. No other new WirelessHD product has been announced either. What is more interesting is that after three years, WirelessHD and the vaunted 60GHz bandwagon hasnít gone anywhere. Moreover, it hasnít showed up in any other interesting applications either. Why? It isnít because it canít be made to work. The reality is that today itís just too big, too expensive and the 60GHz standards haven't settled down yet. Essentially 60GHz has passed over the top of the hump of the hype curve and is now accelerating into the trough of despair and the valley of irrelevance. Clearly the major HDTV OEMs are disillusioned with WirelessHD and 60GHz right now Ė otherwise it would be shipping in a wide range of systems. So when will WirelessHD ship in significant volume? Hard to tell Ė maybe never. Perhaps after the next generation of WirelessHD chips ship in the fall of 2011; though more likely it will be later than that. So, what are the HDTV OEMs doing in the mean time for transmitting wireless HD video?
There are at least two distinct applications we need to look at. First, if a customer simply wants to watch movies using Netflix from the internet then they can use WiFi to send data to the HDTV, which then buffers up the data sufficiently to hide most of WiFiís unreliable data delivery and the HDTV can play your movie. This generally works OK and this addresses an important segment of the market. It does not address the desire by customers however to have the ultra-thin HDTV sit up on the wall with the set top box or Blu-ray player placed some place else in the room. For a true wireless solution to the HDMI cable replacement dilemma the alternative solution that some OEMs are turning to is to use the proprietary WHDI wireless Amimon solution. WHDIs advantage over WirelessHD is that it is cheaper, uses less power and is a lot smaller, though early reviews indicated the range is very limited. The problem is that it is proprietary, a no-no when trying to get major vendors to interconnect a variety of equipment. The impact of some OEMs choosing an Amimon kit will be to stall adoption of WirelessHD and fragment the early market. In the mean time, what will happen to WirelessHD? Given the current standards situation and lack of products in the market, it seems it will fade away as it gets usurped by the WiGig express.
The last big question then remains Ė where does wireless HD video go from here?. Frankly, the outlook is a bit fuzzy Ė but here is my current vantage point; and it may surprise you.
H.264 and DLNA. What you say ? Ė nobody is using DLNA. It is simply another set of useless stickers glued on the box or on the side of my new high-end HDTV (though donít forget is also a part of Windows-7 for PCs) Your question is probably, how did he jump from WirelessHD and WHDI to DLNA? Hang with me for a moment.
There are two trends happening in the industry today that will change the entire thought process of HDTV OEMs regarding delivery of wireless video. One is that more and more HDTVs support DLNA. DLNA compatibility implies that the video decoder inside the HDTV must be capable of decoding H.264 as well as the older MPEG-2 and a variety of other familiar PC oriented video formats. Secondly, more and more PCs (including Windows-7) and Smartphones are also becoming DLNA compatible. In addition the graphics engines and the multi-core processors for new PCs that are coming from Intel and their CE4100 or new Sandybridge or new AMD Fusion products are becoming capable of taking real time video and compressing it into H.264 in almost real time. Moreover, new Smartphone processors from Samsung, such as the C110, the Snapdragon from Qualcomm, or Marvellís Armada 610 are also capable of H.264 compression. Ditto for game consoles.
The outlook then looks like this. Near term HDTV vendors will use a patch work of solutions to address the need for a wireless solution to solve the HDMI cable replacement challenge. A few will use WirelessHD in some ultra expensive high end 3D HDTVs, some will use proprietary kits using WHDI and some will use kits using UWB. Longer term HDTV, PC, Smartphone and CE equipment suppliers will begin to converge on using the H.264 profile supported in DLNA for transmitting wireless HD video, as it doesnít require them to purchase a new video decoder. By using H.264, the wireless throughput requirements will be met by being able to transport 40 to 120Mbps of high QoS stable data that doesnít suffer from radio interference from WiFi sources. Therefore the HDTV makers wonít use WirelessHD, as they wonít need the expense associated with the big pipe 60GHz technology supplies. The HDTV vendors will then support the DLNA protocol over two different radios. One will be the WiFi radio that they already have in the HDTV. This will be sufficient for some uses, but will suffer from bouts of jerky video due to the nature of WiFi and WiFi interference (this will be especially true in high density environments like apartments).The other radio will be UWB. Huh? Yup Ė UWB. The answer to this question will be the subject of a new blog in a few weeks. Until then, we are indeed getting ever closer to a "life without wires".
@Ted.Feldman, I'm glad that you decided to comment on this post. As background, I asked Eric for his commentary in order to stimulate discussion. If you would like to talk about making a post of your own, I will try to contact you off line.
I know they call it a blog, but how about some full disclosure here? The author is the CEO of Alereon, one of the last players left on that Gilligan's Island called UWB. What a coincidence that he chose UWB to be the winner for HD Video in the home? This is blatant corporate communications disguised as an article and designed to keep investors at bay so they can raise a D or E round before the wheels fall off. Do I need to list all of the other VC-backed companies that have gone bust chasing a dead product concept? How about close to $!B worth. And why is Point-to-Point video a dead dog? It's called MARKET RESEARCH. 90% of the time, the video cable is the shortest wire in the room. (And, for full disclosure, I am also a CEO in this industry).
We are talking about cable replacement in a consumer electronic space. Unless it cost is small to start with and can scale with the market until the cost is less than the cable it is replacing I don't understand the market case for this technology.
Just because we have the technology doesn't necessarily justify the R&D cost, yield and profit necessary to sustain the product.
A contrast is wireless internet. The computer, as a business expense, is quite limited without internet connectivity and mobility for laptops. WiFi provides internet connectivity at a commodity price with high yield products. Home HDMI cable replacement has very limited value in business other than providing wireless connectivity to projectors. Nearly everyone in a meeting needs/wants convenient internet connectivity, but only one person at a time needs to access the projector. So I don't think business is going to carry the brunt of the cost of cable replacement. So it would seem this market needs to be much more focused on ROI, high yield, cost reduction and volume than almost any other wireless technology (next to RFID).
Are we there yet? I don't think we are even in the ball park, but I've been wrong before ...
Hopefully others can enlighten me to the sensibility of this market.
I agree with your view on UWB radio technology being a suitable solution to the wireless multimedia in home environment. UWB products on the market deliver the required throughput with the best energy efficiency known. The latest generation provides even 300 Mbps net application layer throupghput (480Mbps gross) and the new one being already standardized delivers even more than 1 Gbps gross data rate. Have no information on what would be net in this case so far. The UWB radio technology form factor (USB dongle like) is really SMALL and the price is comparable to WiFi while delivering higher data rates with less energy within a normal living room distance. UWB does not need multiple antennas (no MiMo required even for ultra high data rates). UWB radio according to the WiMedia and ECMA 368 standard is capable of PROVIDING Quality of Service (QoS) due to a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) like radio resource allocation scheme, which supports reservation of time slots for certain dedicated streams and which supports a kind of "call admission control", which prohibits "overload". And last but not least a subset of UWB radio frequencies can be used WORLD WIDE like the well known older ISM band WiFi radio technology. So why not using it at least for the next 10 years for delivering multimedia contents over distances which are typical inside a living room?
Please review your facts.
Try to untangle the proprietary WirelessHD from 60GHz and its applications space.
Perhaps this will help you.
I have been watching WirelessHD solutions for a while and I have recorded 4 products that are available (or advertised).
I agree with the "big" size of the devices.
Prices are ranging from $299 to $999.
- RocketFish RF-WHD100 $599 MSRP ($299)
- RocketFish RF-WHD200 $299 MSRP
- Gefen GTV-WirelessHD $999 MSRP ($809)
- CablesToGo 29670 $499 MSRP ($349)
There are more WHDI products available on the market. They tend to be smaller in size and lower in cost (start at $200).
WirelessHD and WHDI products can be considered as HDMI cable replacement.
DLNA/H.264 solutions cannot be considered as HDMI cable replacement as it involves hardware and software requirements on both equipments to be connected. There is also a latency issue preventing game usage.
Great points about DLNA and H.264 encode/decode capability becoming ubiquitous, which greatly reduces required data rates for wireless HD video.
Your mention of UWB also reminded me that it was almost 6 years ago that I saw uncompressed wireless HD video at CES, streaming on UWB -- but no real products ever emerged.
I guess no matter how cheaply one can make those wireless transceivers, they still cost noticeably more than an HDMI cable.
Even trade journalists are expected to be able to write!
Though vs. Thou
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2, 33Ė49