Wi-Fi is about to lay claim to a new frequency band that could result in speeds at least 10 times faster than what’s currently available.
An agreement between the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wireless Gigabit Alliance will let the Wi-Fi Alliance carve out specs and standards to support Wi-Fi operation in the 60-GHz frequency band in a bid to make Wi-Fi faster. By contrast, Wi-Fi today operates in the 2.4-GHz and 5- GHz bands.
“Today’s Wi-Fi speeds are measured in the low hundreds of megabits per second,” says Edgar Figueroa, executive director of the Wi-Fi Alliance.”The 60-GHz band allows for significant boost in performance, so we are talking about speeds in the gigabits per second range.”Specifically, the move to 60 GHz could allow for speeds in the range of 1 gigabits per second to 6 gbps, in contrast to today’s theoretical maximum of 150 Mbps for 802.11n.
“Wi-Fi in 60 GHz band could mean some compelling apps, such as those connecting your Blu-ray player to your TV or sharing uncompressed video in real time without any degradation,” says Figueroa.
With the proliferation of multimedia such as photos, home video and HD movies, consumers are looking for faster ways to transfer data that can also cut through the cable clutter. Users who are hooked on Lost through Hulu or can’t resist watching Lady Antebellum videos on YouTube currently have to hook up their computers to a TV through an HDMI cable.
Wi-Fi in the 60-GHz band could be the first step toward helping consumers go truly wireless, says Xavier Ortiz, an analyst at ABI Research. The drawback is that the higher frequency waves have much shorter range and won’t go through walls well.
“The 60 GHz is like a beam of light — you have to have line of sight — but you can get multi-gigabit point-to point networking speeds with it,” he says.
The agreement between the Wi-Fi alliance and the Wi-Gig standard also helps two different standards to come together. Earlier, the Wi-Gig alliance, which has been advocating the 60-GHz band, had to work independently to get chip makers and gadgets manufacturers to get on board with its technology.
“Now we are going to rally the industry around a compelling subset of features and go through a process of testing compatibility and interoperability,” says Figueroa.
Still the new Wi-Fi frequency will have to find a way to work with other standards including Wireless HD and Zigbee to free consumers from being tethered to their devices. Chip makers such as SiBeam have said they will try to find a way to make the Wi-Fi and WiGig chips compatible with Wireless HD.
Figueroa estimates routers and other gadgets that have dual-band or tri-band capability, that is the ability to switch between 2.4 Ghz or 5 GHz and the 60-GHz band, will be available in about two years.
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