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Qualcomm Atheros has three way WiFi/WiGig chip first – in samples now

The Atheros partnership with Intel Centrino refugee, Wilocity, announced last July has borne fruit far earlier than we expected, with chips ready for

By PETER WHITE

Published: 2 June, 2011

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The Atheros partnership with Intel Centrino refugee, Wilocity, announced last July has borne fruit far earlier than we expected, with chips ready for sampling, almost immediately, which have 2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz and the Wilocity 60 GHz, all on a single device.

By putting all three channels together on a single chip, the AR9004TB, it means that video signals can deliver across a room at multi-gigabit data transfer speeds, while the traditional WiFi signals can still work around the whole home with devices like tablets, PCs and smartphones.

True to the what Atheros says it is typical approach of waiting for standards to come out and then jumping on them early, this could pose a dramatic question for all Consumer Electronics TV makers – whether or not to offer 60GHz WiFi, usually referred to as WiGig, in their TVs. Most of them have publicly supported many standards for TV connectivity, with all of them supporting Ethernet, and Sony for instance also backing both Wireless HD and a rival standard from Amimon called WHDI (not in 60 GHz at all). It has also expressed some interest in WiGig, but nothing definitive.

So although there remains little clarity on which fixed line TV connectivity will win out in the global market with both MoCA and HPNA backed initiatives making ground, the wireless market seems poised for unanimity.

The critical decision was back in May when a variety of WiFi groups including WiGig, the WiFi Alliance and the 802.15.3c committee all agreed on a common standard in 60 GHz, a move which convinced WirelessHD player SiBeam to build a chip that supported both its WirelessHD signals and WiGig, effectively conceding that at least the market would be split.

By April SiBeam was sold off for a fraction of its investment costs for $25 million to Silicon Image, a company steeped in HDMI, clearly planning to use the 60 GHz head start SiBeam had to enter the TV wireless connectivity market.

Earlier this week Silicon Image came out with the SiI6300 a family of third generation 60 GHz chips (the first was Wireless HD only, the second had both Wireless HD and WiGig). This is both a transmitter and receiver set, supporting WirelessHD 1.1 features including 1080p/60, 36-bit Deep Color video and all 3D formats. So clearly it has not yet given up the ghost on WirelessHD, but could switch to WiGig at a moment’s notice if the market force it to.

This puts Silicon Image as the last holdout against WiGig and it’s going to come down to volumes and pricing eventually. Silicon Image says the SiI6300 family will be more cost-effective and lower power and a smaller form-factor. Each chipset will include a Network Processor and an RF Transceiver and there are two variants, one for PCs, notebooks and smartphones and another for Blu-ray players and digital TVs and projectors.

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