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WiGig takes Wi-Fi further, but analogue design issues remain

Posted: 04 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cadence Design Systems  WiGig  Wi-Fi  analogue  Intel 

WiGig is an improved version of the enduring Wi-Fi wireless protocol, which in itself was revolutionary. The 802.11ad, or WiGig, brings incredibly fast speed to the 60GHz range and promises to transform system design the way its grandfather, 802.11, did when it was first released in 1997.

WiGig improves Wi-Fi (802.11) wireless protocol, but the path to glory is fraught with design challenges.

We've all written the phrase "quickening pace of change" so often over the decades it's almost lost its impact. It's become like a bowl of peanuts at a party: you expect to see it as part of the food spread but it never really sets your heart pounding. But now comes something that's going to insert a little energy back into the phrase; something that really is going to change how fast change is coming to electronics system design.

The headline feature of the specification is that it transmits data at 7Gb/s, lightning fast. Add to that beam-forming capability to push that data beyond 10m and protocol adaptation layers under development for use with data buses for PCs, monitors, and projectors and whole new application worlds open up. "The 60GHz standard has the means to deliver a wire-like performance in various environments, including pretty dense corporate environments," said Yaron Kahana, Intel Corp.'s WiGig product manager. "It promises the best wireless display and the fastest wireless USB experience."

Potential applications

Speeds like that unlock a lot of potential applications. Think about "cord cutters," those folks who are cutting out cable TV subscriptions and just accessing their programmes via the Internet. That's a symbolic move, but what about literally cutting out all the cords that feed your entertainment system inside your house? That can be enabled by WiGig, literally replacing various HDMI, or FireWire, or RGB cables with WiGig signals.

"The cable was 'cut' with WiFi," Kahana noted. "But DisplayPort, HDMI and USB 3.0 will need something with better throughput. We're using 802.11ad/WiGig for that as the fastest wireless standard available." Think too about small office environments where data is shared today in, say, a doctor's office. MRI files are huge, and sharing them wirelessly can bring your network to its knees. Or your office presentations: Right now, you walk into a room, pray you can turn on the projector with some remote device and then hope you have the right connector to get your presentation projected.

These are compelling possibilities, but WiGig seems also to be turning some system-design thinking on its head in radical, exciting ways. Consider Neptune. This slick-looking Indiegogo-funded project re-imagines what mobility and computing is about. Its hub is the watch, which via WiGig feeds all supporting devices, including a phone, a table, a TV dongle and so on.

That's a story in itself, but my point is when something like WiGig comes along, it breathes fire into design. It causes, wait for it, a quickening pace of change. Mark Barrett, CMO and an engineer at Blu Wireless, who has written on the topic here, put it succinctly:

"The Wi-Fi standards from which WiGig was derived have shown over the past two decades huge potential to stretch technologies by providing a market that supports further rapid innovation."

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