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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

60GHz wireless in the home confusion

Be afraid, be very afraid!
The new WirelessHD special interest group is looking to replace the expensive HDMI cables that connect HDTV set top boxes and HD DVD/Blu Ray players to your lovely high def TV.
It is proposing yet another wireless technology, this time based on a 60GHz (yes, you heard right - that's radar) technology developed by US startup SiBeam. The fact that they can do it in CMOS (although whether that is pure standard CMOS remains to be seen) is impressive and *could* make it cost effective.
However, there are other technologies that are lower frequency and high enough performance for this application, such as UltraWideBand. Companies such as Staccato Communications, Artimi and Pulse Link have developed single chips in CMOS for UWB at much lower frequencies (and therefore lower power) for exactly this. Another UWB chip designer, Tzero Technologies, teamed up with Analog Devices on silicon for Wireless HDMI, based on standards developed by Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony in July of 2003.
So in short we have a ghastly mess. While there are three different technologies for wireless connection no one will integrate it into set top boxes and TVs, no one technology will get enough volume to fall in price and none of them will be adopted.
And while power consumption is not seen to be an issue in the home (although with global warming highlighting the standby power consumption of equipment, it is) the thought of 60GHz millimetre wave signals being pumped around the living room worries me from a safety perspective.
But the unlicensed 60GHz band offers the spectral availability for true uncompressed HD video, audio and data transmission, scaleable to future HD A/V formats such as 1080p, says SiBeam, and is backed by Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG, NEC and Toshiba,who should all know better (VHS vs Beta, HD DVD vs Blu Ray, anybody??)
“WirelessHD’s vision to significantly simplify and enhance people’s ability to view and transport multimedia content among a wide range of devices is both exciting and promising; this represents the first application of SiBEAM’s innovative millimeter wave semiconductor technology,” said John LeMoncheck, President and CEO. “SiBEAM intends to lend their full support to WirelessHD in the area of achieving consumer solutions at mass market pricing through the use of 60 GHz in CMOS technology. In the future, SiBEAM’s technology will enable consumers to efficiently move and share the increasingly large amounts of data and multimedia that are part of everyday life in a wide range of environments.”
First samples and prototyping systems are expected in 2007, but don't expect volume. At all.

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