WiGig to line up with DisplayPort standard

SAN FRANCISCO  — With an eye to letting people link more devices and displays without using cables, the Wireless Gigabit Alliance plans to bring DisplayPort technology into its specification.

The WiGig group, which is promoting a system to wirelessly transfer data within a room at multiple gigabits per second, published its specification in May and is working with the Wi-Fi Alliance to potentially integrate it with Wi-Fi. One intended application of the technology is connecting devices and displays within an office or living room. The DisplayPort specification is already used to link PCs to displays on a cable that can carry both video and data. By integrating it with WiGig, the backers of DisplayPort aim to bring their standard into the wireless realm.

The groups announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to share their technical expertise and specifications and to develop a certification program for wireless DisplayPort products, said Ali Sadri, chairman and president of WiGig.

Amid WiGig’s latest effort to make the upcoming technology more useful, the date for its arrival has slipped. The Alliance now expects the first WiGig radios to come in 2011 and the first products using the system to go on sale in 2012, according to WiGig board member Bruce Montag. Last December, the group had said it expected to set up a certification program this year and see consumer WiGig products in 2011.

Wireless video connectivity is already a crowded space. Chip maker Amimon Inc. and several consumer electronics companies back WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface), which is now available in some LG TVs. SiBeam Inc. sells chips with a technology called WirelessHD and offers dual-mode transceivers with both WirelessHD and WiGig, along with a development kit for system makers. However, no one technology has become dominant.

The WiGig group and the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA), which is responsible for DisplayPort, hope to change that.

“We are going to set the first unified wireless display standard that will be widely used in all devices,” Sadri said. He said many PCs and other devices will soon be built with the wired version of DisplayPort and integrating this into WiGig will bring wireless video into a wide range of products.

One advantage of DisplayPort is that it can do data synchronization and file transfers as well as video transmission, Sadri said. Having a single wireless technology that can do all these things will simplify the lives of users, said Montag, who in addition to being on the WiGig board is chairman of the DisplayPort group within VESA. “Nobody wants to carry a bunch of cables around with their wireless devices,” Montag said.

The Wireless Gigabit Alliance debuted last year with an impressive array of partners, including Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Broadcom Corp. and Atheros Communications Inc.. WiGig is taking a pragmatic approach to building interest in its standard, leveraging existing technologies rather than conflicting with them, said ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins.

“This announcement alone isn’t going to ensure wide adoption of WiGig, but it is another in a number of key strategic steps and partnerships from the WiGig Alliance that will help ensure that adoption takes place,” Collins said.

The biggest challenge for WiGig is that it is so far behind other technologies in delivery, said Brian O’Rourke, an industry analyst with In-Stat LLC. Products jointly certified by WiGig and VESA should begin to appear in early or mid-2012, with volumes ramping up in 2013, according to WiGig’s Sadri.

“They’re lagging by years behind their competition,” O’Rourke said. “Not being on the market’s a significant handicap when you’re competition is on the market.”

One thing that distinguishes WiGig and VESA is that they are aiming at enterprise as well as consumer applications, while SiBeam and Amimon are focused mostly on the home, O’Rourke said. However, he said it’s unclear how much demand there will be in business settings for short-range wireless connections such as PC-to-display links.

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