Tri-band Wireless Products on the Horizon

Michael Brown

Just bought a brand-spankin’ new dual-band router? Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard, Binky; your new toy just might be outclassed as soon as the end of this year by the first generation of tri-band devices with wireless radios operating on the 2.4-, 5.0-, and 60GHz frequencies. These could be the first networking products capable of moving bits around your house at supremely fast speeds and cooking a pizza at the same time.

We’re just kidding about the pizza, but wireless routers operating on the unlicensed 60GHz frequency band do promise to deliver data throughput as high as 7Gb/sec. The IEEE Task Group AD (TGad for short; not to be confused with “teabag”) is busy developing a standard—IEEE 802.11ad—but the companies hoping to sell actual products based on this new technology aren’t taking any chances that the famously methodical international standards body might take the same long winding and road they did with 802.11n. They formed a trade group—the Wireless Gigabit Alliance ( WiGig )— in May 2009, and the alliance announced its own first-draft standard today.

“WiGig will be submitting proposals to TGad,” said Mark Grodzinsky, Marketing Work Group Chair of WiGig Alliance and VP of Marketing at Wilocity. “But this alliance is a direct path to market if the IEEE turns out to be a dead end.” The WiGig Alliance’s specification envisions a host of tri-band products, including consumer electronics hardware, displays, battery-operated handheld devices, and home networking equipment that will remain compatible with existing Wi-Fi products.

WiGig moved to further grease the skids by forging a partnership with the Wi-Fi Alliance , the trade group currently responsible for certifying wireless products as being in compliance with IEEE 802.11 standards. “This is a shorter-range technology that has a lot of bandwidth,” added WiGig Alliance board member and Dell executive Bruce Montag. “It’s designed to complement Wi-Fi, not replace it.”

This WiGig/Wi-Fi partnership could kill the existing standard, WirelessHD, even though that technology is available at retail today in wireless HDMI streamers from Gefen and Best Buy . “One guy will run ahead of the pack by doing one thing really well” said Grodzinsky, “but his product will only serve this limited market. Our alliance will get the industry together in a very methodical way. As an industry body, we have a spec that works, and we’re working on developing a certification process, so we can get the stamp of interoperability.”

WiGig Alliance members include all the heavy hitters in tech—Intel, AMD, Atheros, Microsoft, Broadcom, Nvidia, Marvell, and Realtek—and the alliance announced today that Cisco was joining its board of directors. Its roster also boasts a strong lineup of consumer electronics manufacturers, including Panasonic, Toshiba, Nokia, and Harman. Publication of the WiGig spec means that member companies can begin developing 60GHz wireless products now, without the need to pay royalties or licensing fees. The alliance expects to see the first retail products by Q4 2010 or early in 2011.

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