WirelessHD, Your Plasma’s New Best Friend?

wirelesshd.gifIf you are one of those fortunate (and rich) enough to afford a nice Plasma or a LCD TV, then you should be excited about a new wireless networking standard called WirelessHD. In simplest terms, it would eliminate those ugly wires that hang like vines of an old Banyan tree from your gorgeous big screen mounted on the living room wall.

WirelessHD is the latest effort by electronics industry (LG, Sony, Samsung, and others) to come up with a way to wirelessly shunt video data back and forth to the television, from say your DVD player or a set-top box.

For a while many had promised some variation of the Wi-Fi technology to deliver video to our big screens. Others have talked about Ultra Wide Band and Wireless USB – but those low power wireless technologies may be good enough to get rid of the wires around our computers, it would be hard to see them being able to handle high quality HD video streams from our DVR to the TV screen.

John LeMoncheck, President and CEO of Sunnyvale, California-based semiconductor company, SiBEAM believes the answer is WirelessHD. He is supposed to say that, after all his company is making chips that make WirelessHD possible.

We recently caught up with him, mostly to debate the merits of this yet-another-wireless-technology, which he and others view as an ideal back bone for “Wireless Video Area Networks.” With high definition video becoming commonplace, consumers are likely to need a very high speed home network that is optimized for video, and connects to WirelessHD-enabled devices such as a high-definition television, high-definition disc player, digital video recorder, digital video camera, digital A/V player, and more.

LeMoncheck argues that unlike some of the other wireless standards which work in the crowded 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands, WirelessHD works in the 60 GHz region of the spectrum that is sparsely used and is unlicensed. His company has developed chips that can theoretically shunt video streams at speeds of up to 25 gigabits per second.

If those chips can actually deliver a tenth of that networking speed, it should be more than enough to move around raw (no compression) HD video signals. SiBEAM recently introduced its first product, OmniLink60 chipset, which has non-line-of-sight capabilities, making it ideal for our crowded homes. The company overcomes all the interference issues using a clever piece of software that is embedded inside its chipsets.

What more, his company, backed by some pretty seasoned venture capitalists (New Enterprise Associates, Foundation Capital and USVP,) has figured out a way to make these chips using traditional chip-making technologies. As a result, the company can make its chips affordable enough to plug into consumer electronic devices that typically have wafer-thin profit margins. CE device makers are loath to using anything expensive that cuts into their profits. Typically chips focused on the higher bands of the wireless spectrum have been made from exotic and more expensive materials such as Gallium Arsenide and Indium Phosphide.

WirelessHD was first introduced in October 2006 by SiBEAM and six other companies including some consumer electronics companies. They have been working on finalizing the 1.0 version of the specification, something that should be done by Autumn of 2007. But what does that mean to the consumer? “I think you should expect to see some products in retail by end of 2008 or early 2009,” LeMoncheck says.