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WiGig Alliance Pushing Wi-Fi to Multi-Gigabit Territory

The WiGig Alliance has published a new multi-gigabit wireless communications specification that promises to take at least short-range Wi-Fi to multi-gigabit speeds, offering capacities of up to 7 Gbps, or about 10 times faster than existing Wi-Fi connections. The added capacity would be enough to push lossless high-definition video and audio around homes, potentially making WiGig the solution for wireless high-definition home theater technology—and it would be backward compatible with existing Wi-Fi devices.

“WiGig can now provide the world’s leading innovators with a license to develop next-generation wireless products under royalty-free terms,” said WiGig chairman and president Dr. Ali Sadri, in a statement. “With this announcement today, and with our new partnership with the Wi-Fi Alliance, we are one step closer to fulfilling our vision of a unified 60 GHz ecosystem.”

The technology exploits the unregulated 60 GHz frequency band to enable high-bandwidth data transfer in close proximity, such as in the same room. Industry watchers don’t expect the technology show up in consumer devices for a couple of years; some expect the first device to employ the technology will be high-definition television sets and Blu-ray players, with portable devices like camcorders coming long later.

However, the Wireless HD Consortium isn’t taking WiGig’s technology sitting down: it also operates in the 60 GHz space, and just announced version 1.1 of its WirelessHD specification with support for HDCP 2.0, 3DTV, HD resolutions up to four times higher than 1080p, and data rates from 10 to 28 Gbps. WirelessHD initially focused on wireless high-definition video and audio solutions, but is also now moving into the pure data transmission arena. WirelessHD continues to aim at the high end of the market installed market and, so far, hasn’t focused strongly on portable devices.

Both groups boast several major industry players as backers, and in fact several major electronics firms are members of both consortiums. From a compatibility point of view, WiGig would seem to have an advantage by being backward compatible with existing Wi-Fi gear, but WirelessHD would seem to have the edge on quality and bandwidth. It’s possible the technologies could co-exist, with companies offering both systems, potentially even in the same products. However, despite years of promises, wireless high-definition video solutions have yet to catch hold in the consumer marketplace.

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