Gigabit speed Wi-fi—that's around ten times faster than current Wi-fi speeds—sounds all very groovy, and as everyone's file sizes rise while we all get used to HD video, faster Wi-fi is becoming a necessity. But the WiGig technology is just another new Wi-fi standard in waiting. Haven't we got enough already?
WiGig is being proposed by the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, which is a consortium of electronics producers. It operates at the 60GHz frequency, which is currently unlicensed and underpopulated—the standard is thus capable of pushing data over the air waves at between 1 gigabit per second, for battery-powered devices, and 6 Gbps for mains-powered units. That's over ten times faster than current standards. The idea is that it'll speed up transfer of large movie files—25GB, which is the size of a Blu-ray movie on disc, could be sent in just under a minute, for example. And WiGig could also find a use in wireless HD video applications—where currently you'd use an HDMI cable to connect a set-top box to your TV, with 1080p video data whizzing over the wires at 3Gbps, you'd be able to use a WiGig connection instead.
The Alliance suggests consumer-ready WiGig equipment could make it on sale as soon as next year. But, and it's a big but, WiGig is a totally new standard, incompatible with existing 802.11 Wi-fi protocols, or, for that matter, wireless HD solutions that are already on the market, like WHDI. To use a WiGig connection you'd need totally new equipment.
And consumers are already struggling with the 802.11 B,G and now N protocols—the details of how a Wi-fi box works are generally beyond the interest of the average user. They simply like to connect up a bunch of devices without caring how it works. The IEEE manages the open 802.11 wireless standards, and it's actually got its own 60GHz protocol in the works—but since the IEEE moves slowly, the new 802.11ad won't be finalized until 2012.
Now, the WGA is hoping to get WiGig accepted by the IEEE as an official part of that standard, which would simplify things a bit. But it's not guaranteed to work, and in the interim there's just a proliferation of new wireless standards which is simply not good for the consumer. Can we use this point to suggest to the IEEE that they get on with it, and speed up their certification procedure a bit? The tech world won't stay still while they're deliberating.