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.
802.11ad will probably emerge as a complementary technology to 802.11ac ; Problem with 60 GHz is the range issue. If I remember correctly, Wilocity only claimed in-room communication with WiGig. In order to cover the whole household, 60 GHz doesn't seem to fit the bill right now.
That said, 60 GHz does enable much higher bandwidth, so it is definitely useful for connecting 'wireless' peripherals to mobile workstations / ultrabooks. The big task for Wilocity (who happen to be a bit early to the party right now) is to convince the market to adopt this technology.
Rick, if you mean by the dominant use future , i don't think so. this search for consumer bandwidth has diminishing human performance returns.
As individuals we only need 50 Mega bit second data rates, for an individual. some of us don't want to turn into data idiots. Cheers.
Unless we have new applications that demand such high speed, this may not be necessary. Currently the most popular use of WiFi is to connect to a router or some peripherals. None of this require a 3Gbps connection.
60GHz has it's own pros and cons. It doesn't work outside whene it's raining because the attenuation is too great. The fact that it doesn't work greater than room range is actually a benefit - you can set up independent networks in adjacent rooms with no interference or possibility of "eavesdropping". This makes the networks inherently secure - a huge advantage. Now consider the application of a 60GHz link for an entertainment network...
I am assuming that the range limitation is a function of both the transmit frequency and the power. Given the high frequency being used does the current "in-room" limiting come from the walls or distance? I am guessing walls, given the comment about rain attenuation. I could see a future product like 3D TV to headsets for "surround theater" experiences - in a room. The 60Ghz carrier would have enough bandwidth to support a number of users per room. Is this the future of movie theaters?
I must missed something here. All these WiFi 11ac 11ad etc. provides ample bandwidth for AV streaming in home, blah, blah. But majority consumer has 1.5Mbs to 6.0Mbs downstream from Internet. Unless consumers create HD contents themselves in house, which is occasionally at best.
I still use 11G on the DSL modem/router. I subscribe 3Mbs but AT&T give me less than 1.5Mps effectively and AT&T make little web (news) video clip painful to watch so AT&T can sell UVerse to me.
What is the point of 11ac 11ad?
My take on this is, the original 60 GHz proposals were for "personal area networks," i.e. 10 meter range or so, and were oriented towards the same tasks that previously the much-hyped ultrawideband techniques were supposed to fill.
Now the IEEE 802.11ad work has also adopted 60 GHz, but their goal is to equal the range performance of all other 802.11 variants. So the thinking is, you used the lower 2.4 or 5 GHz frequency bands to locate the 60 GHz users, and then you use beam forming to get the range.
Yes, it does seem that the IEEE wants to make 802.11ad the next evolutionary step. And the much greater bi rate should help support more use cases, e.g. even sending uncompressed HDTV, e.g. from a receiver to a display, without wires.