As the number of home networks in the U.S. approach 40 million, the potential for a massive technology shift is becoming apparent. Home networks will evolve from being focused on data applicationswith email and Web surfing being the most predominantto handling one of the most bandwidth intensive of all applications, video.
Why? Because video content is king. According to market researcher Parks Associates , a growing number of people want to stream online multimedia from their PCs to a consumer electronics (CE) device like an HDTV.
Many planning to move entertainment content from one CE device to another without a PC involved at all. The demand for this kind of interoperability and interactivity is driving the need for an evolution in networking technology to support it.
Home entertainment without wires
Providing high-definition DVD-quality video without wires enables mass adoption of consumer electronics devices that until now required specialized wires and cables.
Most importantly, the any-to-any communication capability of a wireless network finally solves the problem of connecting the device where content is stored (such as a DVR, TiVo box or DVD) to the point of consumption such as a remote display in a bedroom, kitchen, family room or home office.
The nature of wireless video requires a solution which can adapt to changing environmental conditions and support very high data rates. This puts unique requirements on the wireless connection.
It must maintain highly-reliable links, provide robustness toward packet errors and interference, deliver visually lossless compression and ensure system performance and cost-effectiveness through a low-latency solution.
The challenges a wireless video solution must overcome include:
- Link reliabilityLink reliability well in excess of 99% is required for wireless video. This compares to 90% link reliability for data networks.
- Low packet error rateHigh-definition video content requires exceptionally low packet error rates of 10-8 for the wireless link to deliver hours of flawless video. Wireless data networks typically achieve a packet error rate of 5 percent to 8 percent. Additionally, when occasional errors occur, the compression scheme must be one which does not propagate errors through multiple frames.
- Robust to interferenceThe home environment has numerous forms of RF interference. To preserve perfect video quality, the wireless link must avoid or cancel interference (both in-band and out-of-band) and continuously provide a perfect video signal.
- Low latencyTotal latency is a function of both the wireless link and the video compression timeline.
- Standards compliant and content protection compliantThe solution must be compliant and interoperable with all associated standards, including HDMI, HDCP and others.
While wireless solutions deliver convenience, they cannot deliver a viewing experience that is inferior to wired-quality video. A wireless solution must be able to resist interference (from wireless networks, cell phones, microwave ovens, etc.) and fading, able to endure continually changing environmental conditions, support all necessary video resolutions and formats and provide high-performance for perfect lip sync and response time for gaming applications and remote control performance.
Ultra Wideband vs. Wi-Fi
Although Wi-Fi has a large installed base, Ultra wideband (UWB) is emerging as a serious contender for home networking because of its ability to handle video. UWB is a standards-based (WiMedia Alliance) communication mechanism using unlicensed spectrum from 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz.
In an unprecedented move, regulatory agencies worldwide are adopting UWB. The initial wave of UWB products will mostly occupy Band Group 1 (see Figure 1), representing approximately 1.7 GHz of spectrum.
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Figure 1: The figure above shows the division of spectrum from 3 to 10 GHz. The initial wave of UWB products commonly occupies Band Group 1 which represents 1.7 GHz of spectrum.