Wireless Gigabit spec published, gains Cisco support

TOKYO – The group developing a super-fast wireless data technology that can transmit data up to 10 times as fast as today’s fastest Wi-Fi published its initial specification on Monday and named Cisco as the latest backer of the technology.

The Wireless Gigabit Alliance has been developing the technology, dubbed “WiGig,” for a year. It will use unlicensed spectrum around 60GHz and should be able to attain transmission speeds of around 6Gbps when in use.

The technology is designed to replace cables for jobs such as delivering high-definition video streams to monitors and sending data between a laptop PC and its docking station. It’s not intended to compete with Wi-Fi, which operates at lower speeds in different frequency bands.


On Monday the group published a specification for the technology, which includes support for tri-band devices that maintain compatibility with current Wi-Fi devices that operate in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency ranges.

It also began offering equipment makers the chance to sign-up as “adopters” of the technology. Doing so would enable them access to the specification so they could begin developing WiGig products. The first compatible products are due sometime in 2011.

The WiGig Alliance already includes some big names in the wireless and networking industries such as Intel, Broadcom and Atheros Communications. The addition of Cisco will give the technology a boost as the industry searches for a common standard for the 60GHz frequency space.

Currently the biggest competitor in the 60GHz is Wireless HD, a technology developed by big-name consumer electronics companies for pushing digital high-definition video between TVs and other home electronics.

“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,” said Ali Sadri, president and chairman of the WiGig Alliance, in a statement. “We welcome all companies to join with us as we continue to drive the industry forward.”

The chunk of spectrum available for the technologies is wide at around 7GHz in the U.S. But a standard is viewed as important because competing systems battling for the same frequencies could cause interference that would bring down the speed of networks.

Stephen Lawson of IDG News in San Francisco reported that the Wi-Fi Alliance will study the group’s specification as part of Wi-Fi certification. Under an agreement announced Monday, the Alliance will evaluate WiGig technology for integration into its future 60GHz specification. As part of the same agreement, the WiGig group will gain access to Wi-Fi Alliance specifications so it can further align its own technology to those standards.

Also on Monday, SiBeam, the main proponent of an alternative 60GHz technology called WirelessHD, said it is now making dual-mode WirelessHD/WiGig silicon. The chips are available now in sample quantities, and SiBeam will have a reference design for customers in June, said SiBeam president and CEO John LeMoncheck. Unlike the developers of WiGig, SiBeam is already shipping chips that are being integrated into consumer electronics products such as TVs. But it is the only significant chip maker behind WirelessHD.

SiBeam isn’t giving in to WiGig, LeMoncheck said. Rather, the two technologies have different strengths and SiBeam is offering to provide its customers with both, he said. While WirelessHD was designed for video streaming between two devices, WiGig is oriented more toward data networking and is not as well-suited to video, he said. WirelessHD has theoretical throughput of 28G bps compared with WiGig’s 7G bps, so it’s better equipped for the higher-definition video standards of the future, according to LeMoncheck.

“They are fundamentally different in terms of the applications they serve and where they play, and we as a chip company are happy to serve both those markets,” LeMoncheck said.

Another high-speed wireless technology, WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface), is also available on some shipping consumer products but doesn’t directly compete because it operates in the 5GHz range.

Wi-Fi chip makers Intel, Broadcom and Atheros have voiced a desire to make WiGig an extension of Wi-Fi, allowing users to take advantage of multi-gigabit speeds while near to a device or access point and falling back to conventional Wi-Fi rates when they move beyond the range of the 60GHz signal. With Wi-Fi already widely adopted around the world, being combined with that standard could give WiGig an easy path into networked products and users’ homes.

Interoperability with Wi-Fi would probably begin with basic functions such as LAN connectivity and Wi-Fi Direct, a peer-to-peer form of data communication, said Ali Sadri, chairman and president of the WiGig Alliance. To certify WiGig products for other uses, such as wireless HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), WiGig may turn to other standards bodies such as HDMI Licensing, he said.

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