The world's top four television makers have started working on a wireless replacement for the cables currently used to connect home electronics.
Under the umbrella of the WirelessHD Special Interest Group, the companies want to have the first version of the standard completed in the first half of 2007 and begin licensing soon after. That could mean the first products using the technology appear on the market sometime during 2008.
The group includes Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, NEC, Toshiba and chip design company Sibeam.
WirelessHD will use an unlicensed portion of spectrum around 60GHz and should be able to support gigabit-per-second class streaming of uncompressed full HD (high-definition) video (1,080 lines of resolution, progressive scanning) over a distance of several metres. At least two streams should be possible in the average room without causing interference, said Lianne Caetano, executive director of WirelessHD, in a telephone interview.
The system is expected to allow video and audio to be sent back and forth between consumer electronics devices – such as camcorders, game consoles and DVD players – and a television set. It could also enable a single remote that works with all devices in the room.
The group chose the 60GHz spectrum for two reasons, Caetano said. "No other spectrum available right now has this much available bandwidth," he explained. "It's a monstrous amount of bandwidth. That's what helps us get these multiple gigabit data rates. It also has a really high allowable transmit power; in the US it's eight watts."
The frequency is much higher than those used for other systems, such as wireless LAN, and brings with it some technical problems that will have to be overcome before it can be commercialised.
Signals at 60GHz are subject to different propagation characteristics than those at lower frequencies and communication starts to lose its robustness if it is not within line of sight. In a living room, line of sight might not always be possible, especially as people move around the room, so the group is already planning to add smart antenna technology and error-correction algorithms to help ensure smooth pictures are always delivered.
"We haven't yet said exactly how many signals in-room you can have but it will be at least two for 1,080p and it will be much higher for other types of signals," said Caetano. To date the group has managed to get the system working with an interlaced 1,080i signal, she said.
WirelessHD might also have to play with the selection of copy-protection systems currently employed by different devices. It is also likely to have to compete with a number of other cable-replacement technologies. Some of these are further on in development and have already been publicly demonstrated, but with backing from leading TV set makers WirelessHD might have an advantage.