SAN MATEO, Calif. A working group quietly kicked off an effort this week to bring the 1394 protocol over 802.15.3 wireless networks. Backers hope the approach could leapfrog efforts on 802.11 to provide a route for consumer electronics companies to send high quality video signals over wireless home networks.
The group hopes to get official blessing for its efforts from the 1394 Trade Association when it meets in Oxford in July and finish its work in about 12 months. Members of the group include Sony, Philips, Pioneer and several startup chip and software companies.
"A lot of OEMs have tried to send video over 802.11, especially 802.11a, but the video wasn't at the level where they felt comfortable putting out a product in the market," said Alan Heberling, the chairman of the new study group.
Heberling, who heads up protocol development at ultrawideband chip set developer XtremeSpectrum Inc. (Vienna, Va.) hopes the group's work with pave a route for those OEMs to put video over wireless ultrawideband and 802.15.3 networks which can use the same underlying media access controller. The 1394 interface is a key interconnect for sending copy protected digital video between TVs, set-tops and other systems.
Developers in the 1394 Trade Association suggest efforts to put 1394 over 802.11 have become bogged down while the new group is gaining momentum. Nevertheless, Heberling said the new group would develop a protocol adaptation layer for 802.15.3, following the model set by the existing 802.11 group in the association. If successful, existing 1394 applications code should run without change over the wireless net.
Heberling is also working with the 802.15.3a committee attempting to set standards for an ultrawideband physical layer chip that could transmit at data rates of 100 Mbits/second initially but be upgraded to versions at 200 and 400 Mbits/s, albeit at ranges of 10 meters or less.
The 802.15.3 network also promises greater throughput than 802.11, in part because it is an ad hoc network between devices and does not route all traffic through access points which can become network bottlenecks.
Consumer OEMs are clearly looking for a way they can leverage the rise of 802.11 home networks. But no single approach has yet emerged for creating a wireless net inexpensive enough for PC networking yet robust enough for consumer video and high-end audio requirements.
Thomson Inc. will roll out later this year a merchant chip set that handles both 802.11a and HiperLAN 2 at 5 GHz. The company expects at least two others will roll HiperLAN 2 chip sets this year, using the better data throughput and built in quality-of-service capabilities of HiperLAN to handle video.
Thomson demonstrated an early version of the chip set at the Consumer Electronics Show in January transmitting video over the 5-GHz link. The company is expected to roll out systems-such as plasma displays and multimedia servers-using the chip set at next year's CES.
"The whole consumer market is going to networking and we have to have a solution," said Bill Mengel, director of emerging technologies at Thomson.
Mengel said he is tracking UWB but does not active development on it. He is, however, considering a next generation chip set that would use both 802.11g and HiperLAN 2 across 2.4 and 5 GHz links.