WirelessHD's 60GHz platform could spark standards war
Destructive power struggle
The 60GHz frequency band is largely globally available and for the most part has been designated as unlicensed where it has been addressed at all by regulators, and it is often used in point-to-point high speed links across multiple kilometer hops for building out backhaul networks. Statements by the group suggested that there would be versions of WiHD which used HDMI and DVI at the higher levels so that not too much will need to be added to existing wired devices.
“WiHD’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, CEO of the startup. SiBeam executives include pioneers who led efforts to promote adoption of HDMI and leaders in multi-gigabit millimeter wave wireless technology from the Berkeley Wireless Research Center.
SiBeam was founded in 2004 as a fabless semiconductor company developing intelligent millimeter wave technologies and was the first to build 60GHz chipsets using CMOS technology. But the hopes for convergence of multiple technologies in future, rather than a stand-off between WiHD and other groups, is also highlighted by SiBeam's activities to date. It is part of the IEEE 802.15.3c taskgroup looking at 60GHz standards and is also a member of the EWC (Enhanced Wireless Consortium), the Intel-led group that created the core platform proposed for the forthcoming 802.11n fast Wi-Fi standard. Its backers are New Enterprise Associates, US Venture Partners, and Foundation Capital.
Clash with WiMedia?
The impact of SiBeam's heavyweight supporters will not be enough to ensure that WiHD will be a standard, and the body may do better to work with its potential rivals, driving rapid uptake and the possibility of a massive global market unhindered by political feuds. Already, the main UWB-based technology, WiMedia, has attracted several other standards bodies to support a converged path forward, including Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the Wireless USB Alliance and others. And the IEEE has a working group as part of its 802.15 efforts for short range wireless personal networks focused on 60GHz, whose work could also converge with UWB and the new platform.
Until possible cooperation emerges however, the WiMedia Alliance has gone on the offensive. With its own technology hardly off the starting blocks, and UWB still waiting for regulatory approval almost everywhere outside the US, it cannot rest on its laurels because of its early success in the PC and cellphone sectors.
Stephen Wood, from WiMedia cheerleader Intel and head of the WiMedia Alliance, pointed out: "The regulations for 60GHz radios are not all in place, and the standards aren't ready yet." He claims the Alliance had studied 60GHz and concluded it would not be market ready for at least two years. The need for multiple sources of chips and interoperability testing would stretch time to market still further, he said.