Next Gen Wireless Video

By Eric Griffith

October 28, 2003

Work continues apace from chipmakers determined to put wireless multimedia in your future. Hopefully we'll have it in the home entertainment center before they hit a third generation of products.

The need for speed to effectively deliver audio and video over a wireless LAN may have been met this year when 802.11a and 802.11g became firmly established, but we're still a ways off from the Quality of Service (QoS) traffic controls needed to make sure it works well. Look for QoS as part of the 802.11e standard sometime next year.

Meanwhile, companies are not wasting any time making chips to run the wireless entertainment products of the future. Toronto-based ViXS Systems and Magis Networks of San Diego have been at the forefront of these efforts over the last couple of years, and as they continue to announce new features to their chips, they are also gaining some customers --ViXS recently named Daewoo of Japan, for example, and may be able to announce more in time for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2004.

Earlier this month, Magis added new features to its Air5 "wireless entertainment chipset" so it could do a standard-definition video signal from point-to-point. This new Air5 chipset will be used in a reference design they're now offering called the a/v digital media adapter. Air5 builds in QoS and image fidelity maintenance (adjusting the bitrate as needed during transfer). Previously the company only offered the Air5 for embedding in products, but this adapter design can be sold as a wireless add-on for video equipment. Picture beaming your current DVD's output to any wireless TV in the house, and you get the picture.

The A/V DMA will use a new version of the Air5, called the MGS5200, a two-chip set supporting all types of media streaming. It comes with connectors to an MPEG-2 encoder or decoder.

ViXS has also released a brand new version of its XCode video processor. This new chip also incorporates QoS and image fidelity controls on the fly, but builds in its own MPEG encoder in the silicon. It supports both analog and digital video.

The new XCode II is not tied to wireless only. "It'll operate on any network," says Ciricia Proulx, ViXS's director of corporate marketing. "The focus in the market, however, has been wireless, particularly interest in Wi-Fi, and the LCD and plasma screen markets." She adds that the chip can run in any set-top box or video source.

"Wireless is the most challenging," says Proulx.

XCode II has a reduced bit rate for videos, so video can be transferred at greater speeds. ViXS says the transcoding can get as high as 24 times faster in real time. They use the example of sending video from a high-definition source to a PDA, saying the XCode II will down-scale video as it transfers so the end user never sees an interruption.

ViXS, like Magis, is also issuing a new reference design for point-to-point video with guaranteed quality of service. The Magis A/V DMA is available now.



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