Coming Next Spring: A Cheaper Way to Watch HD Wirelessly

I’ve written alot about watching HD video without wires, but most of the time it was in response to the latest company trying to push a whole-room wireless video network, either through Wi-Fi or through a newly developed standard called WHDI. In the last few months televisions and devices that allow you to wirelessly transmit video to those televisions have started hitting the market, which had me wondering what was happening with WirelessHD, the standard that uses 60 GHz spectrum to do point-to-point wireless HD video transfer.

By next spring you’ll be able to check it out for yourself, according to John LeMoncheck, president and CEO of SiBeam, a semiconductor maker set to be the first company with WirelessHD-certified chips on the market. He declined when we met recently to tell me which electronics makers would offer WirelessHD first, but executives from Samsung and Panasonic have pushed the standard in speeches at trade shows. Other members of the WirelessHD consortium include, LG, Sharp and Sony. So WirelessHD may be later to market than others, but it’s coming — and what it offers is compelling.

One of the standard’s biggest advantages is that it will be much cheaper than the Amimon-backed WHDI standard, which is currently adding about $800 to the costs of equipment carrying the chip.  LeMoncheck says the pricing for the SiBeam chips should mimic the costs of a long HDMI cable (between $80 or $100), making it an easy decision for consumers — wired or unwired. It also offers a compelling reason for TV manufacturers to put the chips inside their devices, as it helps them capture revenue that previously went to HDMI cable manufacturers.

Until all systems are go, it’s hard to compare quality, but the demo I viewed was nice, even with people moving the device transmitting the signal around, or interrupting the signal by walking in front of it. Because it uses a point-to-point signal, SiBeam needed to make sure the signal was able to bounce around a room in order to reach the end device, so the video is transmitted in a lossless, uncompressed format, which always strikes me as a bit excessive. Regardless, it works.

And LeMoncheck said it would allow the signal to be read by any device. It also ensures that as codecs such as MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 are adopted and then discarded, TVs containing the WirelessHD chips won’t become obsolete because they won’t need to keep up with such compression codecs.  I eagerly await the coming year, when I can test out the properties of each system.