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A faster Wi-Fi format aims to eliminate most wires

May 9, 2010 |  1:03 pm

Baby-wires Ready to cut the cord? The next generation of Wi-Fi technology could make most wires obsolete.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, an organization that certifies wireless industry standards, announced the specification for a new format for transmitting data over the air at speeds up to 10 times faster than today's top-of-the-line hotspots.

The nonprofit group is billing the technology as a replacement for most wired connections between electronics.

In cooperation with the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, the Wi-Fi Alliance will lobby wireless networking manufacturers, like Linksys and D-Link, to build the new WiGig format into upcoming products over the next couple years. 

The organizations envision WiGig as a complement to existing Wi-Fi bands rather than as a replacement. That's because WiGig's coverage range is significantly smaller. One access point probably couldn't blanket a home, said Kelly Davis-Felner, the marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance.

"Where you'll really see the benefit is streaming across the room or between separate rooms from stored media libraries," Davis-Felner said.

At a speed of 7 gigabits per second, WiGig can easily handle the transfer of high-def video. That positions it as a replacement for wired HDMI connections or optical audio cables.

So imagine launching a video on Hulu, and with the click of a button, zipping that stream from a laptop on the couch to the living room's big-screen television. Or unpacking an Xbox, plugging it into the wall and voila, the system has already found your TV over the network and is ready to be played.

Even that second step of the equation -- the electrical wires -- could be cut eventually.

Placing the Palm Pre or Dell's Latitude Z laptop on their companion charging stations powers them using induction -- no cords required (except for, uh, the one from the charger to the wall). You would, of course, still need to remember to plop it on the charging stand periodically.

"Users want to cut the cords," said Bruce Montag, a senior technical staffer for Dell's chief technology officer and a WiGig Alliance board member. With WiGig, he's excited about synchronizing his music and movies with his computer and cellphone, without having to remember to plug in.

Sounds great. Can we have it now?

"I would not expect it to take less than two years" before a product hits the market, Davis-Felner said. Since the Wi-Fi Alliance established itself about a decade ago, most wireless technology standards have taken at least a couple years for adoption -- with the exception of the most recent transition to the 802.11n wireless specification, she said.

WiGig Alliance Chairman and President Ali Sadri is optimistic about a speedy roll-out. In addition to Dell, Cisco Systems recently joined the organization's board of directors. While Sardi pointed to Apple as an innovator in driving new technology uptake, he wouldn't comment on the company's involvement. Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.

"We have practically all of the Wi-Fi chip manufacturers on board," he said.

The WiGig standard, which runs on the 60 GHz spectrum, could be made compatible with existing devices that support Wi-Fi, but those gadgets wouldn't see the speed benefits of WiGig.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo credit: Business Wire

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