FAQ: WiGig Alliance wireless technology

The Wireless GigaBit Alliance officially releases its specifications Monday

How fast is WiGig?

The WiGig specification will allow for wireless multigigabit data transfer at speeds of up to 7 Gigabits-per-second or more, which is ten times faster than current Wi-Fi speeds.

To give you an idea of how fast that is, one hour of high-definition video can take up to 45 minutes to transfer over current Wi-Fi, but a WiGig connection can cut down the transfer time for that same one-hour HD video to less than a minute, according to WiGig representatives.

Who is supporting multi-gigabit wireless?

Right now, major technology firms like Atheros, Broadcom, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, and many others are part of the WiGig alliance.

When will multigigabit devices hit store shelves?

Devices that support the new 60GHz multigigabit wireless standard are expected to become available by 2011 or 2012. There's no word on cost or how widely available the technology will be.

Great, so my laptop with 802.11n is going to be obsolete?

No. One of the goals of the new agreement between the Wi-Fi Alliance and the WiGig Alliance is to make sure that a majority of the coming multigigabit devices will be backward compatible with 802.11n devices.

How far will a WiGig signal reach?

When 60GHz devices first launch, you can expect them to have a relatively small range--about the length of the average living room. By comparison, Wi-Fi can travel over 100 yards or more.

Are there competing 60GHz standards?

One competitor to the WiGig Alliance is the WirelessHD specification supported by the WirelessHD Consortium, which includes WiGig supporters like Broadcom and Intel, as well as companies like Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony. Like WiGigm, WirelessHD is also capable of transferring audio and video signals, as well as data transfer between computers. The WirelessHD Consortium claims its multigigabit standard can transfer data at speeds of up to 10Gbps at a maximum distance of 32 feet, compared to WiGig's maximum speed of 7Gbps.

What's not clear, however, is whether WirelessHD and WiGig will end up in a format war to decide which standard will win out as the multigigabit wireless standard, or whether the two can coexist. Xavier Ortiz, an analyst for technology market research firm ABI Research, recently told ComputerWorld that WiGig and WirelessHD may avoid a format war if WiGig became the standard for data transfer between computers, while WirelessHD focused on wireless connectivity between televisions, disc players and other home theater equipment.

Whether proponents for WirelessHD and WiGig share Ortiz's sentiments for coexistence remains to be seen.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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Ian Paul

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