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60 GHz groups face off in Beijing over Wi-Fi's future

May 19, 2010 // Rick Merritt

60 GHz groups face off in Beijing over Wi-Fi's future

In meetings in Beijing this week engineers are hammering out the future of Wi-Fi. The IEEE 802.11ad group is essentially a replay of a long standing conflict between two opposing camps in 60 GHz wireless technology.


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On one side, the backers of the WirelessHD version of 60 GHz technology including a handful of consumer electronics giants and startup SiBeam want to defend their approach which was first to market. On the other side, members of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance driven by top Wi-Fi chip vendors want to establish a new version of 60 GHz technology.

Just prior to the Beijing meeting, the WiGig group struck a deal with the Wi-Fi Alliance which has started a task group to certify a 60 GHz version of Wi-Fi. WiGig also convinced archrival SiBeam to build hybrid chips that use both 60 GHz techniques.

The two sides battled it out in competing IEEE meetings in 2008. At that time the 802.15.3c group was completing its spec based on the approach of the WirelessHD Consortium. The .11ad group was just trying to get started as a separate effort based on Wi-Fi at 60 GHz.

Now the 802.15.3c work is done and the .11ad work is just starting in earnest. This week, engineers are for the first time making their competing technical proposals in one group.

According to documents from the Beijing meeting, the .11ad group essentially agreed that both proposals have "many similarities." They agreed to make one proposal, believed to be the WiGig approach, as the basis for a first draft standard. However, the also agreed to start a closed door process in two weeks to address how to integrate the competing proposal into the draft. They also agreed to approve the resulting draft at a meeting in September.

Such a move could essentially bless the hybrid approach SiBeam took with its recently announced chip set. The result could be to enable a wide variety of chip makers to come to market with WiGig, WirelessHD and hybrid chips and let the market choose what it will adopt.

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