Wi-Fi becomes even more video friendly

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    It used to be to that a wireless home network was a matter of surfing the Web or emailing from a laptop at various places in a house where the signal was strong enough. And if a device other than a computer and router were involved, it was a strategically placed printer.

    The rise of smart phones and tablets that adopted the evolving 802.11 Wi-Fi standard changed those early scenarios. Approved and published by the IEEE three years ago, the “n” amendment to the 802.11 (a/g/b) standard added support for multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas and spectrum in the 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz bands. The upshot was throughput of sufficient speed and reliability that vendors—and Pay TV operators—began touting wireless transmission of HD video. In October 2011, for instance, AT&T U-verse began deploying an integrated wireless receiver, an 802.11n-based IPTV set-top from Cisco.

    A successful standard that has never sat still for long, Wi-Fi is currently in its “ac” phase, which is extending previous work in the 5 GHz range and enabling faster throughputs through wider bands, more MIMO streams and higher-density modulation. Chip manufacturers were the first to begin touting 802.11ac products, with Quantenna introducing a chipset (featuring 4 x 4 MIMO) for Wi-Fi routers and consumer electronics in November 2011 and Broadcom launching its BCM 4360 chipset family at CES 2012.

    Broadcom has attached and in some cases substituted the 5G label for the clunky IEEE designation, with the message that Wi-Fi’s “fifth generation” is three times faster and six times more power-efficient than 802.11n. It has continued to develop and promote 5G. In July it announced a platform-agnostic chip that integrates 5G Wi-Fi with beam-forming (dead-space eliminating) technology, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio and related software. At IBC 2012, it launched a platform that combines a DOCSIS 3.0 cable gateway modem with the BCM 4360.

    That video-friendly combination hits several targets. “(The) 5G WiFi cable gateway solution represents a significant advancement in delivering whole-home coverage needed to support video distribution in the home,” said Jay Kirchoff, Broadcom VP of Marketing for Cable Broadband, in a statement. “Broadcom’s new technology addresses the explosion of video consumption, the increased reliance on wireless networks and the growing number of mobile devices.”

    As the 802.11ac standard works its way through the ratification process and related products hit the market, it is not too early to anticipate Wi-Fi’s next chapter: 802.11ad or Wi-Gig, which uses the 2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz and 60 Ghz bands. Wi-Gig could be another big step forward. As per this PC Magazine article last week describing a related Intel demo, it promises to remove the need for any cables on computers.


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