Bye-Bye Wires: Qualcomm’s 11ad WiGig Platform Will Revolutionize In-Room Connectivity

– Mobile & Stationary Devices Can Be Placed Anywhere in the Room…
– …And Connected to the TV by Pressing a Button

Imagine not having all the connecting wires behind the stack of entertainment devices under the TV set. In a new world that’ll start arriving next year, consumers will be able to place their mobile and stationary devices anywhere in a room that has a TV and stream flicker-free videos wirelessly. No wires will be needed between devices. Installations of equipment will be much easier and there’ll be fewer hairballs.

A new and different but very high-speed Wi-Fi technology is coming, called 11ad or WiGig. It’s capable of speeds up to 7 Gbps — yes, Gigabits, not Megabits. WiGig is an in-room network technology, as opposed to a whole home technology such as the 11ac, 11n and prior versions of Wi-Fi. Over time it’ll replace the wires that connect the TV set to devices such as the pay TV companies’ STB, the Blu-ray player, gaming consoles and streaming media devices.

11ad will radically simplify the way consumers connect their entertainment devices to the TV set and even allow smartphone and tablets to stream data-rich UHD videos to a UHD TV or HD videos to an HD TV. Both sending and receiving devices will need the 11ad technology but in many cases that could come in the form of an 11ad dongle that plugs into the TV and serves as the receiver.

 

11ad-Mobile-Use-Cases

11ad uses 60 GHz spectrum rather than the 5 GHz band and 2.4 GHz band that the 11b/g/n/ac versions of Wi-Fi use. However, it doesn’t go through walls very well so it provides very high data rates at short distances. It’s a replacement for connector wires, not for whole-home Wi-Fi.

Here’s what will happen in the 11ad future: a consumer buys a new Blu-ray player, say the one that plays discs with 4K content. Because the player has 11ad, the user can sit it anywhere in the room, plug it into the electrical outlet and press the player’s Connect button. The unit is ready to start playing, even if the TV is across the room.

Dell’s 11ad/Wi-Gig Docking Stations

 

How close is 11ad to being available? Qualcomm Atheros (QCA) has the jump on other chip makers. It is already shipping 11ad chips and Dell already has put its 11ad chips in a laptop — the Dell Latitude 6430u laptop, which is available now along with an 11ad docking station for the desktop or server.

QCA has been demonstrating prototypes of smartphones and Android tablets that’ll have 11ad integrated in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processors. Two weeks ago in New York it showed 11ad models of the Sony Xperia Z3, the new Moto X, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, LG G3, OnePlus One and several other smartphones. Two tablets were wirelessly connected to each other and one tablet was receiving a 4K stream that was stored on the other tablet.

In addition to streaming 4K and HD videos, 11ad can also be used for peer-to-peer content sharing, networking, wireless docking and backing up entire media libraries in seconds.

QCA expects 11ad capable smartphone and tablets to be available in 2015, according to Tal Tamir, Qualcomm’s VP of product management for the mobile, computing and location business unit. He said 11ad is a completed IEEE standard and the Wi-Fi Alliance conducts certifications. Tamir said that 11ad will also be used as part of the Internet-of-Things because homes will eventually have 20 or more sensors, some of which need quick Internet access and others that will need lots of bandwidth such as medical monitoring.

The Wi-Fi Alliance confirmed that 11ad devices will become available in 2016 and says they will be capable of delivering “multi-gigabit speeds, low latency, and security-protected connectivity between nearby devices.” It lists as applications: cable replacement for I/O and display extensions, wireless docking between devices like laptops and tablets, instant sync and backup and simultaneous streaming of multiple, ultra-high definition and 4K videos.

Dell said its Wireless D5000 is the world’s first commercially available 11ad dock. In addition to 11ad, it also supports multiple screens, USB 3.0 and has an audio output. The Dell laptop connects to the PC via the D5000 dock by the user pressing a pairing button and then hitting connect in Dell’s Connection Manager software.

Samsung is a large producer of devices that will need 11ad chips: TVs, mobile phones, tablets, Blu-ray players and the like. It has said it intends to produce 11ad chips. Qualcomm’s very public displays of devices with 11ad chips and the fact that it is shipping 11ad chips seems to have Samsung so concerned that it recently preannounced its 11ad chips and did so in a manner that lead some people to think it’s a proprietary Samsung technology, which it isn’t.

 

The Wilocity Connection

Qualcomm accelerated its entry into the 11ad chip market by acquiring Wilocity, which had been the early leader in the development of 60 GHz wireless chipsets based on the IEEE 802.11ad standard, also known as WiGig.

Qualcomm has gone beyond 11ad by incorporating its 11ac and 11ad technology into what it calls a tri-band (triple band) platform that’s capable of concurrently supporting Wi-Fi’s three bands: 60 GHz for 11ad, 5 GHz for 11ac and 2.4 GHz for 11n. In combination, it said, 11ad and 11ac “create the most powerful and efficient wireless solution in the market; coupling the whole home coverage of 11ac with the in-area multi-gigabit connectivity of 11ad.” Its initial tri-band platform is a reference design based on the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor, which it says is “the world’s first mobile platform designed to support WiGig to enable applications such as 4k video streaming.”

Qualcomm said that by integrating 11ad into its mobile platforms, mobile devices will have near-instantaneous access to the cloud and allow for greater offloads from the cellular network to Wi-Fi networks. That’ll be useful if and when the industry moves to a “Wi-Fi First” protocol in which mobile devices first look for available Wi-Fi networks before connecting to a cellular network. It is a strategy that the cablecos seem to be pursuing with their growing network of hotspots and homespots that their subscribers can access for free.

At the time that Qualcomm announced it had acquired Wilocity, the then president of Qualcomm Atheros Amir Faintuch said, “WiGig will …

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