WirelessHD Chairman: WirelessHD Best for 'In-room' Use

Dec 9, 2008
Hiroki Yomogita, Nikkei Electronics
John Marshall
John Marshall
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Competition is heating up to gain an industry standard qualification for wireless HDTV video transmission technology targeting TVs and other home-use audio-visual equipment.

So far, extended wireless LAN technology, UWB (ultra-wideband) technology and 60GHz milliwave technology have been proposed as candidates. And, over the period from last year to this year, those technologies are entering the final phase of commercialization with Hitachi Ltd employing TZero Technologies Inc's UWB technology (See related article) and several leading firms including Sharp Corp adopting "WHDI" extended wireless LAN technology developed by Amimon Inc of Israel.

On the other hand, some are concerned about the future of milliwave technology, which is capable of transmitting uncompressed HDTV video, because it is lagging behind the other solutions with the first application device slated for market debut in about the first half of 2010, despite its significant potential.

Nikkei Electronics interviewed John Marshall, chairman of the "WirelessHD" milliwave-based data transmission standard and the founder of SiBEAM Inc, which is developing WirelessHD chips, about his enthusiasm for the technology.

Q: Some technologies including Israeli Amimon's WHDI are being increasingly employed by Japanese audio-visual equipment manufacturers. Meanwhile, it seems to take a while for WirelessHD to be commercialized although it can transmit 1080p 60fps HDTV video. Would you explain the current state of WirelessHD?

Marshall: WirelessHD is steadily making progress. Let me explain it.

First, we believe that the market for our WirelessHD is different from that of Amimon's and other technologies. Our technology targets "in-room" use, whereas the others target "whole-home" use. WirelessHD is targeted for use to connect various audio-visual devices at high speeds in a room.

We limit its use to inside a room to make the most of milliwave's properties, without assuming content transmissions through walls, for example. Amimon's WHDI and other solutions, on the other hand, include connection between devices in different rooms.

We are convinced that WirelessHD is the best solution for connecting devices in a room because our technology is the only method that enables wireless transmission of uncompressed 1080p 60fps HDTV video. Its maximum data transmission speed reaches 4Gbps. As far as I know, WHDI's maximum effective data transmission speed is 800Mbps.

In addition, WirelessHD is lossless. Our uncompressed video transmission technology causes no latency, which becomes an issue when using H.264 and other compressed data transmission technologies.

Another thing that I want to emphasize is the fact that our technology has already been widely known although it is yet to enter the commercialization phase. According to a consumer survey conducted by Quantum Insights LLC, 30.2% of the respondents recognize "WirelessHD," far more than 5.3% and 2.3% respondents that recognize "UWB" and "WHDI," respectively.

The ratio fell below 63% respondents that recognize "WiFi" wireless LAN technology, but we feel our technology is attracting quite a lot of attention as a new technology. We are planning to officially announce the final results of this survey, which targeted the general population of 2,000 people, in the near future. The percentages that I mentioned are based on the data of 342 respondents among them.

Q: Device manufacturers are strongly interested in the schedule like when they can start using WirelessHD chips. Is your chip product being developed toward commercialization as scheduled?

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Q: Device manufacturers are strongly interested in the schedule like when they can start using WirelessHD chips. Is your chip product being developed toward commercialization as scheduled?

Marshall: We are on schedule. Related manufacturers will probably make a certain announcement at International CES 2009, which will take place in the US in January 2009. We can't disclose the details yet, though. We believe that compatibility tests have been conducted as scheduled too.

Q: I would like to ask you about SiBEAM now. Impacted by the recent global financial crisis, consumer product-related ventures are reportedly struggling. Among semiconductor manufacturers that target the wireless audio-visual equipment market, in particular, some manufacturers developing UWB and other wireless chips have been forced to terminate their development. What is the situation of SiBEAM like?

Marshall: SiBEAM has no problems. We already procured US$40 million in funding in April 2008. With this fund, we would be solid for a few years even if we did not have any income. Our business platform has already been established, with leading companies including Panasonic Corp and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd providing capital to us.

Q: SiBEAM already started shipping its WirelessHD chipset, but some people seem to think that its price is high. How about the cost of your product?

Marshall: We have always emphasized the importance of comparisons on a total BOM (bill of material) basis. We believe that our solution is within a range where it can well compete with rival products on the basis of total BOM including peripheral components.

For example, our RF chip is packaged with an antenna array. Therefore, it requires no external antenna and enables users to cut a material component cost.

In addition, we are now developing a next-generation product to reduce the mounting area by further integrating our chip and reducing the number of peripheral materials. We can't reveal a detailed roadmap now, but chip size and board mounting area will be drastically diminished from now on.