2013: The Year Of WiGig?
By Paul Kruczkowski, Editor
The massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week served as a coming-out party for WiGig (802.11ad). The 60 GHz technology, which enables devices to communicate wirelessly at multi-gigabit speeds, was on display in a big way at CES, marking the beginning of what appears to be robust future for 802.11ad.
Wireless chipset developer Wilocity was at the center of most of the WiGig action. Along with partner Qualcomm-Atheros, the company launched the first tri-band reference design combining 802.11ac Wi-Fi and 802.11ad WiGig wireless technologies in a single module, allowing consumers to connect to other 60 GHz-enabled devices, docks, displays, and storage units at multi-gigabit speeds, while maintaining enterprise-wide or whole-home coverage with 2.4 GHz/5 GHz Wi-Fi. Wilocity also demonstrated the first commercially available products that integrate its 60 GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets, including the Dell Latitude 6430U Ultrabook with wireless docking capability. Additionally, the company demonstrated the WiGig’s application-level networking capability utilizing a tri-band access point with seamless fast session transfer, provided by its partner AzureWave. The arrival of the WiGig chipset and the products using it prompted Tal Tamir, CEO of Wilocity, to proclaim that “2013 is the Year of WiGig.”
Since I last wrote about WiGig in February 2012, the main focus of the Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) Alliance has been to ensure interoperability down to the finest detail of the recently ratified 802.11ad specification. Alliance member companies brought their various hardware and firmware efforts to several plugfests to make sure that all aspects of the MAC-PHY and protocol adaptation layers (PALs) were implemented properly and were compatible with each other’s technology. In a recent conversation, Ali Sadri, president of the WiGig Alliance, told me “this effort was an immense undertaking and no stone was left unturned to insure interoperability.”
The next plugfest is scheduled for February 2013, with a goal of resolving any remaining issues with interoperability so that MAC-PHY V1.2 and PALs can be finalized for release. In addition, the Alliance intends to develop automated full-system integration and testing plans to be used for WiGig product interoperability certification. These are the final steps before the technology is transferred to the Wi-Fi Alliance (the two organizations agreed to unify earlier this month), so it can implement the sole certification program for 802.11ad enabled products. Sadri indicated that he thought the 802.11ad certification would begin in Q1 2014 — not soon enough for Wilocity, since the initial products with its 60 GHz chipsets will likely be 802.11ad compliant but will remain uncertified.
The 802.11ad standard has been ratified, the Wi-Fi Alliance and WiGig Alliance have united, and 60 GHZ WiGig-enabled products are now a reality, so the stage is set for this technology to emerge as a mass market solution. In fact, ABI Research projects that 60 GHz-enable device shipments will exceed 1 billion units per year by 2017. I discussed these projections with Mark Grodzinsky, VP of marketing for Wilocity, and he thinks they are realistic.
“Market growth will come in stages,” Grodzinsky told me. “Wilocity will do its best to take advantage of being first to market in 2013, providing chipsets for as many 802.11ad enabled products as possible. I expect 802.11ad certification and the arrival of major industry players like Intel and Broadcomm in 2014 to accelerate market growth. Finally, when 802.11ad migrates to the mobile handset market, 1 billion units shipped per year will be achievable.”
The WiGig Alliance’s five-year effort to make the 802.11ad standard a reality will create incredible and far reaching market opportunities that will likely rejuvenate the PC market, add another radio to smartphones, and provide countless opportunities for the RF and microwave design community to advance this newborn technology. Design opportunities include advances in antenna design, reduced power consumption, and miniaturization of chipsets. Thanks to WiGig, design engineers supporting the WLAN industry are entering exciting times.