SAN JOSE, Calif. The Wi-Fi giants have entered the battle over wireless video.
Five top Wi-Fi chip makers and a handful of computer and consumer OEMs have created the Wireless Gigabit Alliance that aims to release later this year a specification for 60 GHz networking at rates up to 6 Gbits/second. The technology will compete with startups such as Amimon and SiBeam that have rallied similar alliances around their technologies and already delivered working chips to OEM partners.
The WiGig group has been in the works for as long as 18 months and already has about 80 percent of its spec complete. It will also set up compliance and interoperability testing programs for chips expected to flow sometime next year.
The spec uses separate protocol adaptation layers to target a wide range of applications. They range from whole home video with a range of 10 meters to wireless HDMI and lower power Gbit/s links over five meters for devices such as on cellphones.
"A lot of people anticipate 60 GHz products that will include 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi as well," said Bill McFarland, chief technology officer of Atheros, a WiGig member. "I definitely think we can support tri-band at 65nm," he added.
The group will only release details of the spec to members at this point. However, it does open the door to aggressive use of multiple antennas and beam forming techniques while re-using "some of the upper layers" of the existing Wi-Fi media access controller, said Ali Sadri, president of the alliance and a director of personal area network standardization at Intel Corp, another alliance member.
Intel called for an overarching standard for 60 GHz networking at a meeting of researchers it hosted in October. Other members of the WiGig Alliance include Broadcom, Dell, LG Electronics, Marvell, MediaTek, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung and Wilocity.
The group aims to get to market ahead of official efforts in the IEEE to develop a 60 GHz version of Wi-Fi targeting minimum throughput of a Gbit/s. The 802.11ad group hopes to finish market requirements documents this year and put out a call for technical proposals sometime in 2010 with the aim at selecting a standard in 2011.
"I hope we can assist in expediting this procedure," said Sadri.
"It's early enough that anything can still happen," said Craig Mathias, a wireless consultant with Farpoint Group (Ashland, Mass.). "There are plenty of semiconductor companies not represented in this announcement, and they might get excited about doing something different," he said.
Early efforts between IEEE 802.11 and 802.15.3c groups to define 60 GHz standards clashed last year. And different factions competed over early versions of the current 802.11n standard.
Mathias said he has been bullish on 60 GHz for multi-gigabit wireless links for some time. "The good news is we're far enough along as an industry that people could be buying Gbit-class LANs at reasonable prices in a year or so," he added.