NEW YORK – While the debate over divergent wired and wireless home networking schemes and standards rages on, one wireless application stood out at the International CES: Miracast.
The very idea of being able to wirelessly beam what a user is watching on his or her handheld device (a smartphone or tablet) to a bigger-screen TV struck a chord with a lot of conventioneers.
Miracast has shown a path that enables projection of personal media (or Web content readily available on mobile devices) onto a bigger-screen TV. It does so by completely bypassing artificial constraints put up by broadcasters or other service operators who often prefer a walled garden approach to their Internet offerings.
Meanwhile, a Miracast vs. UltraGig debate is brewing.
As Brian O'Rourke, senior principal analyst at IHS, explains it, “Miracast (previously known as Wi-Fi Display) is a software layer that enables Wi-Fi silicon with peer-to-peer connection capability.” Although Miracast is different from Wi-Fi’s traditional point-to-multipoint architecture, it’s a standard created and maintained by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Miracast’s application has the ability to “mirror whatever is on the smaller screen onto the larger screen."
In contrast, UltraGig is a 60GHz technology that Silicon Image is pursuing. Its original 60GHz wireless technology, WirelessHD, comes from SiBEAM, which Silicon Image acquired in 2011. Silicon Image has given WirelessHD technology its own, product brand name: UltraGig.
Just to refresh your memory, WirelessHD is the highest bandwidth wireless video transport solution currently available in commercial quantities. O’Rourke explained that it’s optimized for uncompressed 1080p video transmission, so it should not suffer from packet loss or artifacts created by compressed solutions, such as those which use MPEG compression.
Both Miracast and UltraGig showed similar demos of peer-to-peer wireless connectivity in a living room using smartphones.
Nvidia shows off Miracast.
Many chip companies--including MediaTek, Nvidia and Broadcom--touted Miracast at CES. However, Tim Vehling, Silicon Image’s vice president/general manager of wireless division, found CES the perfect forum to pitch and highlight UltraGig’s virtues as it operates on 60GHz.
Vehling pointed out that the UltraGig demos “suffered from none of the interference that Miracast has from the many WiFi devices in the market.” He claimed that “the only way people could show Miracast at CES was by doing it off the show floor (a la MediaTek in a private suite at the Sands),” or in some instances, by faking it (using an MHL cable, for example).
Peter Cooney, practice director for wireless connectivity and semiconductors at ABI Research, agreed. He said that some of the Miracast demos might have been using 802.11n, “so it would not have been a fair comparison.” At any rate, Cooney said, “it was an incredibly noisy environment at CES.”