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Wilocity uncloaks 4.6Gb/sec Wi-Fi for next year's smartphones

Low-power 'Sparrow' flies into Barcelona, renamed Wil6300

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MWC 2014 Wilocity, pioneers of high-speed "WiGig" 60GHz Wi-Fi, has used the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as the debutant ball for its 4.6Gb/sec chip for smartphones, formerly codenamed "Sparrow" and now formally dubbed Wil6300.

"The huge performance boost offered by 802.11ad, operating in the 60GHz band, combined with massive demand growth for Wi-Fi, makes this a natural fit for mobile phone users," said Wilocity cofounder and CEO Tal Tamir in a statement. "802.11ad will fundamentally change the way people use their mobile phone to access, view and share their personal media."

When The Reg spoke with Tamir at CES last month, he told us that we could expect to see Sparrow Wil6300 chips appearing in smartphones in 2015. "Battery life and power will be the same as using Wi-Fi," he told us at the time.

In Monday's announcement, the company said that power consumption would be in the 200-to-300 milliwatt range "for streaming video and other typical user scenarios," and power consumption at idle would be under one milliwatt.

While 802.11ad may be impressively fast, it does have some notable limitations: unlike 802.11ac and slower Wi-Fi variants, its range is short and it won't penetrate walls or other solid objects, such as we wetware bags of meat and fluids.

Wilocity, however, has two tricks up its sleeve. Although those pesky walls are an insurmountable signal-stopper, should a human or other object get between a Wil6300-equipped device and its wireless access point, the directional 802.11ad beam will simply find another route to its target by bouncing off a wall, ceiling, floor, furniture, or whatever in a search that takes mere milliseconds.

The second method to ensure continuous connection should your device's 60GHz signal be blocked is more prosaic: the Wil6300 will automatically fall back to 802.11ac or or 802.11a/b/g/n. Although Wilocity told us that the Wil6300 itself doesn't support these Wi-Fi standards, we assume that such fallback will occur only if they're already supported by your smartphone (and, of course, your Wi-Fi router), but Wilocity did not immediately get back to us with clarification on this point.*

Although 802.11ad was established as an IEEE standard in 2012, the recently merged Wi-Fi Alliance and WiGig Alliance haven't yet finalized their interoperability certification program – although they have managed to design a logo.

That tardiness, however, hasn't prevented Wilocity and its licensees from shipping over one million of its WiGig units since they hit the market in February 2013, nor did it stop Cisco from entering into a partnership with Wilocity last November.

In addition, seeing as how Wilocity is the only vendor having developed and licensed WiGig tech, interoperability with other WiGig implementations is not a current challenge. As others pop out their own tech based on IEEE 802.11ad, however, Wilocity's pioneering position may be tested.

And when that happens, Wilocity may face challenges that are more market-driven than technological. As the old saying goes, "The pioneers get the arrows; the settlers get the land."

However, with more than a million Wilocity WiGig parts in Dell laptops, workstations, and docks, and with the Wil6300 chip available for smartphones that could ship next year, the company does seem to be transforming itself from pioneer into settler. ®

* Update

On Tuesday afternoon, Wilocity VP of marketing provided us with the following clarification: "All Wilocity products will be part of a tri-band network," he wrote. "The Wilocity system in package (SiP) supports 60GHz only, but all smartphones have legacy Wi-Fi today. Fast session transfer to the other frequency bands happens in the software and will be implemented."

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