SAN JOSE – As many as four companies could start shipping in less than a year a new wave of 60 GHz wireless chips. The devices will deliver more than three Gbits/second of data for less than two Watts of power, but face hurdles building new markets.
Wilocity announced today it will partner with Marvell to deliver modules that use the startup’s 60 GHz chips along with Marvell’s Wi-Fi silicon. It previously announced a similar deal using 2x2 802.11n chips on half-sized mini-PCI Express cards from Qualcomm’s Atheros division.
In addition, two other startups—Beam Networks and Peraso Technologies—said they will announce their 60 GHz chips within the next six to nine months. All the chips are based on the IEEE 802.11ad standard promoted by the WiGig Alliance created in 2009.
Chip makers face several challenges creating a broad market for the new 60 GHz components. They have to convince multiple OEMs to adopt the chips to establish a value proposition for end users. But OEMs are focused on a transition from today’s mainstream 802.11n products to the new 802.11ac standard which promises data rates of a Gbit/s at 5 GHz.
Wilocity expects PC makers will announce before the end of the year notebooks and bundled docking stations with the Wi-Fi modules from Qualcomm. The Wilocity 60 GHz chips in the modules will enable a new feature of wireless docking.
Next Wilocity will turn its efforts to getting the chips designed into peripherals like external hard drives, and eventually access points, mainly leveraging its new collaboration with Marvell which is strong in both sectors.
Both Marvell and Qualcomm took stakes of less than ten percent of Wilocity’s equity as part of the partnerships. The deals with the big chip makers provide the startup leverage convincing OEMs to use the new WiGig technology to enable new user scenarios.
“There is market making we need to do here,” said Mark Grodzinsky, vice president of marketing of Wilocity.
“The easiest way to get [60 GHz] to market is going into the [notebook] docking station because the PC maker can bundle [the dock],” Grodzinsky said. “Users won’t spend more money on a high performance wireless upgrade [for notebooks] if there is nothing to connect to,” he added.
Long term, Wilocity and other WiGig Alliance members hope the 60 GHz technology becomes a mainstream standard supported in all Wi-Fi products.
So far the alliance has been too “focused on personal-area apps and video links rather than IP-based WLANs,” said Craig Mathias, principal of market watcher Farpoint Group (Ashland Mass.). Nevertheless “the potential for 60 GHz in WLANs is quite good,” he said.
Products based on the 5 GHz 802.11ac standard just now coming to market may have difficulty achieving their promise of Gbit/s data rates because they need 80 and even 160 GHz channels. Thus “the door for 60 GHz in WLANs is wide open [at least] for the power-user segment, but I'm not sure the industry wants to walk through it at present,” Mathias said.
Indeed, the “.11ac standard took a lot of people’s attention this year—it’s seen as a .11n replacement,” said Grodzinsky. “Now people are looking at what else is interesting and finding the .11ac boost is nice and necessary but this [60 GHz technology] is the real game changer,” he said.
The Wilocoty/Qualcomm module is sampling now.