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Wireless Gigabit spec set for Q1 release

Wi-Fi to enter 60GHz band for 7Gb/s speed boost

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Chip makers and hardware manufacturers will be able to get their hands on the first version of the WiGig - Wireless Gigabit Ethernet - specification in Q1 2010, the organisation behind the would-be standard said today.

The WiGig Alliance - which now comprises more than 30 members, with Nvidia, AMD and SK Telecom among the most recent firms to sign up - announced in May 2009 it would publish the specification within a year.

WiGig takes Wi-Fi and extends it into the 60GHz band to boost data transfer speed by a factor of around 10x to a peak of 7Gb/s.

Higher frequency means shorter range, however. WiGig runs to "over 10m" - if it were significantly higher than this, they'd say so - using beamforming techniques to steer signals in a given direction. Upping the range means a greater need for line-of-sight links, in other words. It will operate asymmetrically: data-exchanging devices don't need the same number of antennae.

WiGi Alliance logo

The specification is based on the 802.11 MAC for operating system-level compatibility with that wireless standard. There's a dedicated PHY to handle 60GHz transmissions and, above the MAC, an plug-in layer to deal with the specific needs of certain applications, such as digital video streaming.

That puts WiGig up against rival technology Wireless HD and various wireless HDMI initiatives, but Jason Trachewsky, the WiGig Alliance's Secretary and Senior Technical Director at Broadcom, told Register Hardware said that what WiGig offers, unlike these others, is a unified approach capable of not only addressing specific wireless applications but general data traffic too, all on devices that are wireless compatible.

He also stressed the technology's greater suitability for handheld hardware than Wi-Fi has proved to be. The multiple antenna technology that's part of 802.11n, for example, is hard to implement on small, handheld devices - one reason why most smartphones only offer 802.11b/g connectivity.

Trachewsky said WiGig has been designed from the start with mobile devices in mind, a plan aided considerably by the use of the 60GHz band: the frequency so much higher than that of the 5GHz band, let alone the 2.4GHz zone, and the wavelength proportionately smaller that antennae can be shrunk considerably. Which also means bigger devices can contain many more aerials than they might if equipped with Wi-Fi.

Getting the radio's power consumption to an acceptable level for handheld usage is another matter, of course, but that's up to the WiGig's wireless chip maker members, among them Atheros, Broadcom, Ralink and Intel.

With the publication of the 1.0 specification, these vendors and others will be able to start developing products. Trachewsky was unwilling to describe a roadmap for WiGig's appearance in devices on shop shelves.

How will it be promoted? Mark Grodzinsky, the WiGig Alliance's marketing chief, said that's too early to say for certain, but it's possible the technology will be fitted into other, existing standards. Given the level of compatibility with Wi-Fi, WiGig could be placed under the auspices of the Wi-Fi Alliance, but other platforms are likely to leverage it too, he said. Presumably, in much the same way consumer electronics re-brand elements of the HDMI specification, most notably its remote control routing, as their own. ®

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