There is a lot of news this morning (I have read three stories about it already!) about the Wireless Gigabit Alliance and the upcoming setup that will ostensibly allow realized speeds of 7 Gb/s (depends on which story you believe as to the actual speeds realized). The idea stems from using the unlicensed spectrum at 60GHz. Yes, you ready that correctly.

The story that gives the greatest detail comes from InfoWorld, and tells much about the possibilities, save for a couple of things –

Two international short-range wireless industry groups announced an agreement on Monday to promote faster Wi-Fi in the 60GHz frequency band, as well as the two bands where Wi-Fi now operates.

Use of the 60GHz band, which is also unlicensed, would give users the ability to send data at much faster speeds than with existing Wi-Fi, into the 1Gbps, or faster, realm. With the new standard, a user could send a high-definition video across a living room wirelessly from an HD player to an HD television, eliminating the need for a cabled connection.

The two groups, the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (also known as WiGig Alliance), announced they will cooperate on multi-gigabit networking within the 60GHz band.

Wi-Fi traditionally works within the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, and the Wi-Fi Alliance wants coming 60GHz-capable devices be backwards compatible with existing Wi-Fi specifications, Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa told Computerworld.

WiGig announced a specification in December, which it said at the time would result in data transfer rates between devices of more than 10 times faster than today’s wireless LANs, or up to 7Gbps, about 10 times the 802.11n rate.

Figueroa, however, would not discuss the rates that would result from the alliance announced on Monday, saying only it would support 1Gbps speeds or faster.

WiGig had already attracted leading manufacturers of semi-conductors to its board, including Intel and Marvell International. The board also includes a range of computing device makers, such as Dell, LG Electronics, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, and Toshiba. Microsoft is also a board member.

ABI Research forecasts that various manufacturers will build 2 million 60GHz chipsets by 2015, and the analysis firm has been tracking several industry groups that want to make products within the 60GHz band.

Some analysts believe that the specification announced by WiGig will eliminate competing standards groups such as WirelessHD supporters, which is backed by 40 companies, but ABI’s Xavier Ortiz said that WiGig can co-exist alongside rival industry groups.

“I don’t think the two groups are going to fight each other to the death, and each will focus on their market,” he said. WirelessHD has more of a focus on streaming of HD TV signals inside of homes, while WiGig seems to have a greater focus on sharing data between device, perhaps sending a backup of a personal computer to a storage device.

WirelessHD products are beginning to emerge from SiBeam and Georgia Tech for receiving and transmitting video signals — but they are expensive, Ortiz said.

In a statement issued in April, Ortiz said that WiGig’s joining with the Wi-Fi Alliance means that WiGig’s approach “will likely be successful.”

Figueroa said the Wi-Fi Alliance has not ruled out working with the WirelessHD group. “We are going to be considering all the 60GHz groups for how compelling they are and how well-suited to complement Wi-Fi,” he said.

The thing about this is that there are some problems with wave propagation at 60 GHz. The signals will not penetrate walls well, and thus will probably not be able to be used across larger houses, as the current wi-fi is used now. The fact that the chipsets would be allowing all three bands means that possibly some of the problems will be alleviated by dropping in frequency, but then you have lost the speed advantage. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t use wireless connections for anything but mice within the same room. The idea of transmitting something across the room is nice in theory, but I wonder how many will actually do it.

In addition to video transfers wirelessly, Figuroa said future applications for 60GHz services could be PC backup or transfer of a PC’s data to a new PC. Future applications could allow a user to pull up in a car to a kiosk and download a DVD to a portable device wirelessly. “You could do that in a matter of seconds with this speed,” he said.

A one-hour HD video can take 45 minutes to download with Wi-Fi, in comparison.

Figueroa said it might take two years for products to appear, but one central function of the Wi-Fi Alliance will be to certify that products are interoperable.

“Most users don’t want a spaghetti bowl of cables behind a device like a TV,” Figuroa said. “They want the freedom that wireless provides, and this WiGig is an extension of what we’ve been providing for 10 years with Wi-Fi.”

Wi-Fi is already available on nearly 1 billion Wi-Fi devices globally, and the group estimates that 10 percent of all people in the world use Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is growing so fast that 800 million more devices will be shipped with Wi-Fi in 2010, he said.

Initially, WiGig is expected to have a significantly shorter range than Wi-Fi, he added. Wi-Gig would reach across a living room, while Wi-Fi reaches across a football field or more.

So this could be wonderful for the office, or SOHO environment, but for the average Joe, not so much. It could be one of those things that is extremely useful three or four times a year, but not daily.

The words about the spaghetti of wires is rubbish. Anyone that cares about video and/or audio quality will be against this, as the chances for interference are much higher, and small glitches are very annoying in video – the transmission of data over a network is not the same, as retransmissions are not usually a big deal, as long as the final data is correct.

The possibility of this is very nice, the probability that it will replace wired connections is very doubtful. This stuff will be very useful in a very few cases, not widely useful in any manner.


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