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WiGig gains turf in next gen wireless for now

Posted: 12 May 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:60GHz  Wi-Fi  wireless network  consumer electronics 

A deal with the Wi-Fi Alliance to have its specification for 60GHz networking considered as the next generation of Wi-Fi and SiBeam Inc., to be the first to deliver silicon for its spec, Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig) has stolen a march over its competitors for now.

The two victories give WiGig a big leg up in defining the future of 60GHz networking. But the battle to command this key turf for next-generation wireless is not over.

The IEEE 802.11ad group setting a specification for 60GHz Wi-Fi is still accepting new proposals. In addition, the competing WirelessHD Consortium rolled out a new version of its technology promising throughput of 10-28Gbit/s, leapfrogging the WiGig group's 7Gbit/s maximum theoretical data rate.

In a surprise move, fables chip designer SiBeam, which pioneered the WirelessHD approach, announced May 10 hybrid silicon supporting both the latest WiGig and WirelessHD specs. The company is one of a new group of 14 others including Cisco Systems either to join WiGig or sign up as an adopter of its spec.

Analysts point out the market for wireless video, a key driver for 60GHz networking, is still in its infancy. Other players seeking a piece of the action include start-up Amimon with a proprietary 5GHz approach and Ruckus Wireless using a novel antenna design with existing Wi-Fi.

"There's a lot going on out there, and how it's going to shake out will take awhile to be determined," said Brian O'Rourke, a senior analyst at market watcher In-Stat.

"Overall in terms of wireless high def video, it's a niche technology in the near term because wired solutions work well and are inexpensive," said O'Rourke. "Consumers aren't clamouring for wireless video technology now, but over the long term maybe they will," he added.

SiBeam's hybrid chip
SiBeam is using its embrace of the WiGig group to reposition itself into a company at the forefront of millimetre-wave networking, hinting it is even exploring the possibilities for 77GHz components for automotive collision-avoidance radar. In the short term, it is expanding its focus from point-to-point video over WirelessHD to include local-area networking with WiGig.

"We believe WirelessHD is ideal for video streaming because it was built that way, but we also see opportunities with WiGig in a LAN application that could be interesting," said John LeMoncheck, CEO of SiBeam.

The company's SB8110 RF transceiver will be available in June. It comes with a reference design and tools to create a design that can support either WirelessHD, WiGig or both approaches. WirelessHD is based on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), WiGig is based on a single carrier.

"This chip will do it all," said LeMoncheck. "We believe we are the first to market not only with dual mode but with WiGig over all," he added.

One thing SiBeam is not doing so far is supporting the existing Wi-Fi variants. Many WiGig backers are expected to come to market with triple band radios that support Wi-Fi at 2.4-, 5- and 60GHz.

Nevertheless, SiBeam's embrace of a competitor's technology is a savvy and perhaps necessary move for still relatively small chip vendor. The WiGig group has already attracted at many as four other start-ups pursuing 60GHz silicon, and two WiGig members are said to be using that technology to create video streaming chips that will compete directly with WirelessHD.

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