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Wireless Features

Updated 5/10/2010 3:30PM EDT

Why WiGig?With a flurry of announcements, the WiGig Alliance shows that it has learned the lessons of past failed wireless technologies.

I was skeptical of WiGig when it was created last May, seeing it as the 60 GHz equivalent of the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) that was pulled together to successfully slow Airgo's wide lead in 802.11n technology.

To provide an extra measure of warm-and-fuzzies, WiGig positioned itself as an extension of Wi-Fi, claiming backward compatibility and that it "supplements and extends the 802.11 MAC layer", while painting its primary competitor—WirelessHD—as merely wireless HDMI technology.

While it's nice to know that WiGig is moving along on schedule with the publication of its unified wireless specification and the opening of its Adopter Program, WiGig's other announcement today shows that it has learned from the missteps that killed both previous 60 GHz technologies, Wireless USB and Cable Free USB.

Now that WiGig and Wi-Fi are officially cooperating, the wagons are pretty much in a closed circle that will make it hard for WirelessHD to ultimately succeed. This, in spite of the fact that WirelessHD devices are already available in both adapter and embedded forms.

Advanced technologies usually have a lead company whose chipsets are used as the basis for initial technology demonstrations and the formation of "Alliances" to gather other companies under their technology tent. So it's significant when such a "lead dog" announces that it's moving to another big-top.

SiBeam has been the company behind WirelessHD, producing not only impressive initial demonstration technology, but highly-integrated production chipsets. So with today's announcement of a dual-mode WirelessHD / WiGig transceiver, you can almost hear the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments at WirelessHD headquarters.

Granted, a transceiver leaves a lot of heavy lifting (MAC / BB) as an exercise to the developer. But SiBeam has a two-year jump on any of its 60 GHz competition and I've been impressed by the demos that I've seen. So, while it may spell the beginning of the end for WirelessHD, it gives SiBeam a fighting chance for its own future.

Although WiGig today announced that its Adopter program is now open for business, it didn't list any joiners. But a WiGig spokesperson confirmed that SiBeam "just joined" as an Adopter member, so the game is officially on.

Don't think, however, that this means that WiGig compatible products will soon be available at a retailer near you. You can expect a process similar to the seven year slog for 802.11n, which started with multiple "draft standard" chipsets (in this case, the standard is 802.11ad) with problematic compatibility, moved to products certified to a Wi-Fi "interim" standard, then culminated with released standard products (and grandfathering of most of the products in the field to "released standard" status).

It will be interesting to see how the triple band 2.4 / 5 / 60 GHz radios that are being talked up with this announcement evolve, since 60 GHz is primarily in-room / next-room technology. But with the competition for space inside the coming generations of mobile phones and slate / tablets, the ability to have a common MAC / Baseband will give WiGig a leg up over Bluetooth, which will probably disappear into the annals of networking technologies.

For more analysis, read Rick Merritt's excellent story over at EE Times.

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