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Three IEEE efforts target new short range wireless standards

Prospects of a converged standard in the emerging 60GHz space for short wave, high speed connectivity are improving

By PETER WHITE

Published: 24 February, 2011

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Prospects of a converged standard in the emerging 60GHz space for short wave, high speed connectivity are improving. At this week’s ISSCC semiconductor conference, SiBeam fleshed out technical details of its hybrid chipset, which will bring together the two main contenders, its own WirelessHD and the Wi-Fi extension, WiGig.

SiBeam, however, is in the classic dilemma of the innovator that creates a new standard – needing bigger names to join the party, to give the platform scale and credibility, but then facing the prospect of being unable to compete. At the conference, it saw STMicro showing off its own WirelessHD solution, which implements the full four channels of the spec in a 65 nanometer design co-developed with French research institute CEA-LETI. One module

Meanwhile, SiBeam co-founder Chinh Doan described a two-chip solution, first promised in May 2010, which supports both WirelessHD and WiGig. It implements two 1.76Gbps WirelessHD channels, totalling 3.8Gbps over 10 meters, and has a maximum power consumption of about 2 Watts. Despite its support for WiGig, SiBeam’s CTO Jeff Gilbert argued that WirelessHD is still superior in almost all scenarios because it is more energy efficient. But the WiGig Alliance retorted that it would charge no royalties for its specs, unlike WirelessHD or even pure Wi-Fi, and would boast Wi-Fi fallback plus PAL layers supporting HDMI, DisplayPort and other interfaces.

There is a third 60GHz option, though, from the IEEE’s 802.11ac group. This is another extension of Wi-Fi (WiGig emerged from the technology’s VHT group) and last year saw tense debates between the two initiatives, with many players like Intel trying to persuade them to converge, and avoid the kind of stand-off within the IEEE that wrecked the bid for an UltraWideBand standard several years ago. The 802.11ac effort is developing a 5GHz spec using 80MHz and 160MHz channels, up to 8x8 MIMO, 256 QAM and other techniques to deliver 867Mbp – or an aggregate of 6.9Gbps across several devices. The group is expected to finish its spec by the end of the year. The first compliant chips and an interoperability certification process could be in place at about the same time, according to EETimes.

Two other short range standards are emerging from the IEEE this month. One is being developed in a working group called P2200, backed by Sony, Orange, SanDisk and Softbank. These players are proposing a standard for getting content to mobile devices using SD cards and Wi-Fi networks, a technology they have dubbed HQME (High Quality Mobile Experience). The system would automatically detect when a mobile device hits a Wi-Fi network and then begin downloading content for consumption later, keeping DRM and subscription information intact.

“HQME’s innovation is to align key players in mobile content delivery to minimize the inconveniences associated with acquiring content over capacity constrained mobile networks,” said Susan Kevorkian of analyst firm IDC. The platform will appeal to operators as it allows them to use their networks during slack times, like overnight, for downloads. However, some question whether the approach has missed its time, when many content models are moving towards streaming and the cloud.

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