Look, Ma, No Wires!

3D is getting all the attention in the A/V world these days, but anyone who’s courageously dived behind their AV stack has dreamed of a day of not encountering a tangled spaghetti mess.

Awaken from your dream. There are three such wireless interconnect solutions emerging: Wireless HD (WiHD), Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) and WiGig. A handful of companies are backing several of these: Hitachi, LG, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are all listed as supporters for both WiHD and WHDI, for instance; LG, Samsung and Panasonic are supporters of all three. Chip makers also are doubling up; Broadcom and Intel both are supporters of WiHD and WiGig.

While all three consortiums seek to provide a wireless uncompressed 1080p HDMI connection, each uses slightly different technologies and envision slightly different usage cases. And considering the acronym overlap, it’ll be nearly impossible to keep them all straight.

WiHD has the simplest mission – provide a wireless HDMI replacement over the recently unlicensed 60 GHz band.

WiGig also operates in the 60 GHz band, but is a more multi-purpose and interoperable standard. An extension of standard 802.11 WiFi with complete backward compatibility, the goal of WiGig is to provide a higher bandwidth – 7 Gbps, 10 times faster than 802.11n – wireless connections for high-bandwidth functions such as transferring HD video from a camera to a PC.

Both WiHD and WiGig are short-range (10 meter) same-room technologies. Neither is strictly line-of-sight; if you stack your A/V gear underneath or next to your HDTV, the wireless stream will bounce off nearby walls to your HDTV to complete the wireless circuit. Implementation in larger rooms, therefore, could be challenging.

WHDI is a slightly different wireless animal; it aims to connect all devices to any display in your home. WHDI operates in the more flexible 5 GHz band (just like 802.11n), so does not require line-of-sight and has an up-to 30-meter range, expanding equipment placement flexibility to multiple rooms. Earlier this month, the consortium announced its next specification, due later this year, would support 1.4a 3D capabilities.

But HDTV manufacturers have been shy about all of the wireless possibilities. Sony, LG and Panasonic all announced WiHD-enabled HDTVs but none are widely available, and Vizio was due to a WHDI model but, as far as we can tell, it’s not out yet. All require the purchase of a separate wireless kit consisting of a wireless dongle for the TV and a transceiver STB, priced around $400.

The WiGig wireless HDMI specification isn’t due until the end of this year at the earliest, and the first WiGig-enabled products of any kind likely won’t be in stores until 2011.

I wish TV makers would be jumping all over this. Even though confusion is likely to ensue between WHDI and WiHD, practical wireless HDMI is bound to be far more popular than 3D.

About Stewart Wolpin

I have been writing about consumer electronics for four decades, including news, reviews, analysis and history for a wide variety of consumer, niche and trade outlets. For the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), I annually update the industry's history and write the official biographies of the CTA Hall of Fame inductees. Aside from writing about consumer technology for a variety of consumer, tech and trade publications, I write a blog and do market research for Digital Technology Consulting. In the non-tech world, I have written "Bums No More: The Championship Season of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers" and "The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle." Check out my work at www.stewartwolpin.com.
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