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CeBit: Wireless video coming soon

Benq shows off digital hub

You can't stream video over a Wi-Fi 802.11b wireless network, right? The technology's 11Mbps bandwidth isn't sufficient. Wrong.

At this year's CeBit computer show in Germany, Taiwanese technology giant Benq was doing just that: a prototype 'digital hub' that includes a TV tuner was beaming a TV signal to a notebook over an 802.11b wireless connection.

Picture quality is compromised — it's more like Mpeg-4 than DVD definition — and the distance has to be kept under five metres to keep the signal at the full 11Mbps, but it's still impressive.

The concept is very much experimental; Benq UK staff at CeBit had heard the digital hub talked about, but hadn't expected to see it at the show. "It will be at least three to six months before a finished product reaches the market," said Royce Lye, Benq UK marketing manager.

By that time, an new wireless LAN standard, 802.11g with a much higher bandwidth of 54Mbps — easily enough for high-quality video transmission — should have been ratified and the fast 802.11a standard (also offering 54Mbps) will be more widely available.

The hub is essentially a stripped-down version of the company's Joybook — a notebook-format 'media integration' device that looks like a run-of-the-mill laptop with a high-quality screen and a fancy trim, but which contains a suite of media integration software for audio and video creation and editing rather than office productivity tools.

The hub has no screen, keyboard, mouse or speakers, just a couple of ports, an aerial and a few LEDs. But it is likely to be the forerunner of a long line of products, emanating from Asian and Far Eastern countries, that seek to bring digital integration to the home, linking TV, audio, movie-making and web-based 'infotainment'.

"As a piece of hardware the hub is quite a dull product," said Lye, "but it's the potential for what it can integrate that's interesting."

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