SAN JOSE, Calif. Startup Amimon has rallied five consumer giants behind its variation of an 802.11n home network that it claims can carry uncompressed high-definition video an average of 100 meters. The resulting Wireless Home Digital Interface special interest group will define by the end of the year an ad hoc standard based on an update of the Amimon technology.
Hitachi Ltd., Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Sony Corp. have become promoter-level members of the new group. A spokesman for Amimon (Santa Clara, Calif.) said the startup will ship a second-generation chip set compliant with the new spec about the time the spec is released.
The WHDI technology competes with a handful of other approaches pursuing similar applications using ultrawideband, 60-GHz radios and other twists on 802.11, some of them backed by similar consortia.
One of the closest competitors, startup SiBeam, has gathered LG, Matsushita, NEC, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba behind its 60-GHz technology that aims to carry uncompressed high def video up to about 10 meters. The WirelessHD group has already launched its spec.
Both Amimon and SiBeam position their technologies as a wireless version of the HDMI interconnect gaining traction as a link between digital TVs, set-top boxes and Blu-Ray DVD players.
At 60 GHz, the SiBeam approach supports higher data rates (4-5 Gbits/s) but shorter distances (about 10 meters) than the 5 GHz Amimon technology that hits about 3 Gbits/s but can reach up to 150 meters and penetrate walls. Thus Amimon claims its technology can serve an entire home while SiBeam focuses on links within a single room.
Panasonic showed SiBeam's 60-GHz technology connecting its TVs and set-tops at the Consumer Electronics Show, one of many wireless demos at the show in January. Sony demoed Amimon chips on a wireless Bravia TV at CES.
The WHDI spec and Amimon's next-generation chips will upgrade the startups technology in three ways.
The new version will upgrade data rates to support full 1080-progressive video resolutions over 20- or 40-MHz channels, up from support for 720-progressive scanning. It will also add a new control protocol so devices from different vendors can communicate with each other.
The current Amimon chips use a version of HDMI's High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) called Approved Retransmission Technology that is limited for use between two subsystems from a single vendor. The new chips and spec will use an unnamed copyright protection—presumably a full HDCP implementation--suitable for use between different vendors' systems.
The WHDI spec will be available for an annual fee and a per-use royalty yet to be determined. Aversion to the royalties on HDMI was one factor that motivated some system makers to define an alternative DisplayPort technology aimed primarily at computers.
"The royalties for WHDI will be so low it would not make sense to create another standard," said Noam Geri, vice president of marketing and business development for Amimon. "They are insignificant next to the cost of the silicon. The HDMI royalty is only four cents," he added.
Belkin and Sharp have rolled out products using the existing Amimon chips. Notebook PC makers are evaluating use of the new versions, Geri said.