Coming to a Desktop Near You: Gigabit Wi-Fi

By Ed Sutherland

February 12, 2004

If 100+Mbps isn't enough for your WLAN needs, wait a while: the aim of Gi-Fi is to crank up the throughput past 2 Gigabits.

Just when you thought you'd tweaked your company's 802.11g network to blast 54Mbps to the desktop comes a veteran of the broadband wars talking of 2 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Wi-Fi connections. Wireless Gigabit to the Desktop (wGTTD) aims to make Ethernet in the enterprise obsolete.

wGTTD, sometimes cutely referred to as 'Gi-Fi', opens up the prospect of massive file transfers, smooth video-on-demand and lucrative data mining.

The move comes following a decision by the Federal Communications Commission to open up the 56Ghz band for possible high-speed wireless LAN use.

Wireless networks "are absolutely going in that direction," comments Feisal Mosleh, a marketing vice president at Vernier Networks. The WLAN network management firm plans to offer its enterprise customers support for multi-gigabit connections.

"People need more and more" wireless data, says Mosleh, who quickly agrees with the notion of a completely wireless workplace.

A number of companies -- from Agere to Intel -- are targeting gigabit desktop connections. Major Wi-Fi chip provider Broadcom sees the rise of digital packrats. "No one throws anything away," said Broadcom CEO Alan Ross in a recent interview.

Gigabit Ethernet sales -- the wired kind -- are expected to reach $850 million by 2007, according to researchers at IDC. So the desire for a wireless version is understandable.

Although little is known about the company proposing wGTTD -- NewLANs -- other than a few PowerPoint slides and a couple online blurbs, the man behind the concept has a long track record bringing broadband to you.

Dev Gupta formed, then sold, several network providers. In 1995, just as DSL was appearing on the horizon, Gupta created Dagaz. In 1998, Gupta started MaxComm Technologies, a company enabling new broadband connections to carry voice and data simultaneously. Both companies were bought by Cisco.

Most recently, at Narad, Gupta led the charge putting cable in the broadband cat bird seat once the sole property of the Baby Bells.

While cable modems traditionally max out at around 3Mbps throughput, Narad is working to uncap that limit and provide hundreds of megabits per second to enterprises. Such a move would allow cable to expand its customer base from the current consumer-dominated one to the lucrative enterprise. Even faster cable modem service would also steal the lunch of telecomm companies who have traditionally supplied high-speed connections to businesses.

In an interview with Wi-Fi Planet, Gupta says he hopes to eventually market his wGTTD idea to Cisco customers. Ironically, many of Gupta's past ventures were later snapped up by Cisco.

While Gupta hopes to see a wGTTD standard materialize by the middle of 2004, the entrepreneur says his next step is a return trip in March before the IEEE, where he will present more details of Gi-Fi. In November 2003, Gupta went before the IEEE's LAN/MAN Standards Committee Plenary Meeting where he presented a tutorial explaining Gi-Fi. Paul Nikolich, head of the IEEE committee, refused comment on the proposal.

Will Gi-Fi surpass Wi-Fi? While wGTTD supporters see potential uses for the technology, current wired and wireless users do not need a 2Gbps connection to read e-mail, open an attachment or even conduct VoIP conversations. If Gi-Fi has a purpose, it may be more akin to the nearly identical and already-approved 802.16 MAN standard.

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