Wireless High Definition Special: In the second of our articles looking at the competing next generation wireless high definition TV systems hdtv.biz-news.com spoke to John LeMoncheck, president and CEO of SiBEAM, and a leading member of the WirelessHD (WiHD) consortium.

Before assuming his current role as president and CEO of SiBEAM in 2006, John LeMoncheck, was vice president of Silicon Image’s consumer electronics and PC/display business.

In that position, he led the company’s efforts to promote the worldwide adoption of HDMI.

Since joining SiBEAM, a high-speed wireless applications business, LeMoncheck has been at the forefront of its endeavors to develop WiHD technology it expects to transform the wireless landscape.

He said he had adopted a similar strategy with WiHD as he had done when he pulled together the HDMI standard, which now has almost a billion installed links worldwide.

“I called up my HDMI buddies and said let’s do this, but wirelessly,” he said.

WiHD replaces HDMI wires with radio links and is designed to handle HDTV video streams between AV equipment.

LeMoncheck said the need for wireless connections was becoming essential as more HDTV manufacturers produced super-thin panels for hanging on walls.

He said WiHD had enough bandwidth – more than 4 Gbits/s – to ensure “perfect, lossless uncompressed video”.

Picture Delays Avoided

This meant there were no memory, compression or latency issues – essentially delays which can cause sluggishness in gaming or even when changing of channel.

Coupled with this, the technology had a low rate back channel which enabled activities such as pictures to be moved around while still satisfying the “big pipe” to the display.

LeMoncheck said SiBeam had taken the decision to change the fundamental frequency it worked with to 60 GHz.

He said they had done this rather than adopting the “apple polishing tricks” of rival wireless technologies, which he said suffered from an “obvious loss of quality”.

However, he said one factor that had limited the 60 GHz technology’s mass appeal was that it depended on a clear line of site between devices.

Beam-steer Fixes Broken Signal

This had been overcome by developing a technique to beam-steer the signal by bouncing it off walls.

He said the technology was now omni-directional – allowing it to detect all available devices – and then direct data to the receiver as a tight beam of energy with only micro-second delays if the beam was interfered with.

“If you walk in with a new device, it will get added to the network of devices,” he said. “To the user it feels like an omni-directional radio – you don’t have to position it to make sure it works.”

As well as SiBEAM, members of the WirelessHD consortium include industry leaders such as Intel, LG, Matsushita, NEC, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

But it was also important to have the confidence of Hollywood and last month WiHD announced that a content protection scheme for the transmission of wireless high definition content had been released by the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator and approved by major film studios.

High Cost Factor

Another problem encountered in the WiHD technology was the high cost of transceiver circuits.

This has been tackled by using a radio frequency (RF) integrated circuit (IC) manufactured with complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology.

GaAs technology is commonly used in millimeter-wave transceiver circuits, making it hard to lower costs.

The use of general-purpose CMOS technology is expected to lower costs to about the level of the costs of wireless LAN.

SiBEAM is the key driver in chipping the CMOS RF transceiver and in January this year it announced the world’s first WiHD chipset.

LeMoncheck said this was very small and simple to integrate.

He said if it was possible for manufacturers to add the chip solution to, for instance HDTVs, for the same cost as a 10m cable then it was a “no-brainer”.

“It’s a strategic gain for them as they are gaining from the cable dollars that they would not have got before,” he said.

Potential Uses Are Vast

LeMoncheck said future uses, once a single chip solution was perfected, would allow it to be put, for instance, on the back of a camcorder.

He said the PC world was also very interested in wireless docking giving access to displays, printers and so on.

“There are a lot of different devices that this can go into,” he said. “That’s our other key advantage – we are capable of working with data.”

He said an iPod could synchronise effortlessly between devices, transferring a whole DVD file in five seconds.

“That’s why we are working with the IEEE and looking at personal area networking,” he said.

The WiHD consortium has entered into contracts with about 40 firms for the use of its technology and the first equipment compliant with WiHD is likely to appear in early 2009.

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