SAN JOSE, Calif. In meetings in Beijing this week engineers are hammering out the future of Wi-Fi. The IEEE 802.11ad group is essentially a replay of a long standing conflict between two opposing camps in 60 GHz wireless technology.
On one side, the backers of the WirelessHD version of 60 GHz technology including a handful of consumer electronics giants and startup SiBeam want to defend their approach which was first to market. On the other side, members of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance driven by top Wi-Fi chip vendors want to establish a new version of 60 GHz technology.
Just prior to the Beijing meeting, the WiGig group struck a deal with the Wi-Fi Alliance which has started a task group to certify a 60 GHz version of Wi-Fi. WiGig also convinced archrival SiBeam to build hybrid chips that use both 60 GHz techniques.
The two sides battled it out in competing IEEE meetings in 2008. At that time the 802.15.3c group was completing its spec based on the approach of the WirelessHD Consortium. The .11ad group was just trying to get started as a separate effort based on Wi-Fi at 60 GHz.
Now the 802.15.3c work is done and the .11ad work is just starting in earnest. This week, engineers are for the first time making their competing technical proposals in one group.
According to documents from the Beijing meeting, the .11ad group essentially agreed that both proposals have "many similarities." They agreed to make one proposal, believed to be the WiGig approach, as the basis for a first draft standard. However, the also agreed to start a closed door process in two weeks to address how to integrate the competing proposal into the draft. They also agreed to approve the resulting draft at a meeting in September.
Such a move could essentially bless the hybrid approach SiBeam took with its recently announced chip set. The result could be to enable a wide variety of chip makers to come to market with WiGig, WirelessHD and hybrid chips and let the market choose what it will adopt.
In Beijing, Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) proposed a hybrid technique that supports a "single carrier system and common mode for co-existence in the 802.15.3c standard," said Hiroshi Harada, a researcher at NICT who made the proposal May 18.
"We believe the contributors who support 802.15.3c can support this proposal because this proposal has included a co-existing mechanism with 802.15.3c," said Harada. "The chip venders who would like to promote the 802.15.3c system [will find it] easy to implement the PHY and MAC in our proposal," he said.
The proposal was backed by Hitachi, Fujitsu and others believed to include Sony and Panasonic. The Japanese giants have been backers of the WirelessHD standard, some using it in existing TV products.
The WiGig backers include Intel, Atheros, Broadcom, Marvell and other dominant suppliers of today's Wi-Fi chips.
Under the current compromise, WiGig and NICT proponents are expected merge their proposals in a way some expect will preserve the vast majority of the WiGig approach. Their plans to deliver a final, merged proposal in September is raising hopes the market for 60 GHz Wi-Fi products could emerge faster than expected.
Some market watchers have projected sales of two million 60 GHz systems in 2015.
The compromise proposal noted many areas where the WiGig and NICT approaches used similar techniques. One of the few significant differences the proposal noted between the two technologies was in the way they handle aggregation to support channel access for directionality. The two also use slightly different methods of forward error correction in their radio architectures.
The compromise was backed by as many as 120 engineers attending the meeting from a wide variety of companies from both camps. They included Advanced Micro Devices, Atheros, Apple, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Dell, Fujitsu, LG Electronics, Marvell, Nokia, Panasonic, Qualcomm, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and others.
The .11ad group also heard in Beijing a proposal from France Telecom, Japan's NTT and Sony to let 2.4, 5 and 60 GHz links collaborate in a home network. A fast-session transfer capability was proposed, in part as a way to jointly manage traffic across the three bands.
The fast-transfer proposal included related techniques for using 2.4 and 5 GHz links to improving discovery, signal training and scheduling of 60 GHz transmissions, increasing the range of 60 GHz links. The proposal envisioned using 60 GHz within a room and 2.4 and 5 GHz links as a back haul to go between rooms.