WiGig Alliance Expands Membership

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

October 13, 2009

The WiGig Alliance is now comprised of more than 20 companies working towards the development of a unified gigabit wireless technology.

The Wireless Gigabit Alliance (aka the WiGig Alliance), which was first launched in May of this year, recently announced the expansion of its membership roster to more than 20 companies, with the addition of Toshiba, Agilent Technologies, Beam Networks, Ralink Technology Corporation, and Texas Instruments. The alliance is focused on the development of a unified gigabit wireless technology, operating at 60 GHz, that can connect everything from consumer electronics and handheld devices to personal computers.

Dr. Ali Sadri, the WiGig Alliance’s president and chairman, says the decision to operate at 60 GHz was made in response to a perceived market need, not the other way around. “What we wanted to do was to find out what is it that Wi-Fi cannot do today, and what are the usages that in the future we need to do better,” he says. “From that standpoint, a few usages stand out.”

Those usages, Sadri says, include uncompressed video transmission between PCs, set-top boxes, game consoles, and mobile devices--as well as multi-gigabit-per-second synchronization of data between devices such as video cameras and PCs. “The other usages are perhaps replacing some of the I/Os—the PCI Express I/O, for example, USB, even USB 3.0—you want to cut that cable and make it completely wireless and perhaps create a new user experience,” he says.

And that’s what led to 60 GHz. “Looking at the frequencies at 5 GHz or 2.4 where Wi-Fi operates, there’s just not enough bandwidth to provide you with multi-gigabit-per-second throughput… and one of the uniquenesses of 60 GHz is that it works very well within a room environment,” Sadri says. “You could have multiple 60 GHz devices operating in your room…it makes perfect sense for a technology that has very short range—we’re talking about ranges of up to ten meters—and then you can reuse the frequency from room to room, house to house, or apartment to apartment.”

Since its founding, Sadri says, the group has been focused on developing a specification that can serve a wide range of different devices. “Developing a spec that is comprehensive and from the bottom up designed for multiple devices is very difficult, compared to other groups and technologies that are focused only on one application—let’s say, set-top boxes, for example,” he says. “In that case, you don’t have to worry about power consumption, but in our case, because we’re envisioning that the technology will get into handheld devices, the power consumption is extremely important for us.”

And the spec, Sadri says, will adapt to different environments and devices as needed. “For handheld devices, which consume less power, we have a mode that operates at very low power, very efficiently,” he says. “For other devices that can consume more power and transmit at higher range and higher throughput, we also extend our spec all the way up to that level.”

Sadri says it’s crucial to understand that WiGig isn’t intended to replace Wi-Fi. “Many of our members are actually board of director members of the Wi-Fi Alliance, as well, and we share common goals…we are hopefully going to have a mode that actually falls back into Wi-Fi 802.11n or the future 802.11ac,” he says. “We want to always have connectivity available. In some cases, when for example you cannot close the link at 60 GHz, there’s no reason you cannot fall back into standard Wi-Fi and continue your connectivity that way.”

Similarly, Sadri says, WiGig doesn’t compete with WirelessHD or WHDI, both of which are more specifically focused on video streaming. The most important consideration with regard to the relationship between WiGig and WirelessHD, he says, is avoiding interference. “We have coexistence mechanisms built into our specification, so not only will we coexist with WirelessHD, but with any other proprietary 60 GHz device that may come in the future,” he says.

At the same time, don’t expect WiGig products on store shelves any time soon. The alliance is on track to complete the MAC and PHY spec by the end of 2009, after which Sadri says the protocol adaptation layer spec should be completed by the end of Q1 2010, followed by the testing specification. “The majority of 2010 will be allocated for that…and then you set up the test houses and make sure you implement the test procedure correctly—and then you go through interoperability tests,” he says.

In looking at the planned specification, Sadri says the most important aspect to keep in mind is its universality. “We are built to be a very global standard, not serving one application but many, many applications,” he says. “That’s our uniqueness, and that’s why our membership is growing, and why we have CE manufacturers, PC, handheld, and so forth—because we want to build something very comprehensive.”

Jeff Goldman is a veteran technology journalist and frequent contributor to Wi-Fi Planet.

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