Home Industry Market NICTA confident of cashing in on 60GHz WLAN bonanza


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NICTA confident of cashing in on 60GHz WLAN bonanza

  • 07 April 2010
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  • Published in Market

A market research firm is tipping a market of two million 60GHz short range wireless chipsets by 2015. Meanwhile NICTA is still confident of commercialising its 60GHz technology and says the market will be much bigger.

60GHz technology provides data throughputs at up to 5Gbps over short ranges. It is widely seen as being necessary to network devices in the home that will require throughputs beyond the hundreds of megabits per second offered by "Wireless-N", 802.11n, the latest iteration of the WiFi standard, in order to carry HDTV signals and to enable the transfer of large files, such as video from mobile to other devices.

Australia's NICTA has been pioneering CMOS based 60GHz chipsets for several years. It unveiled the technology in February 2008, announcing plans to spin off the technology in a separate company, and demonstrated its first prototypes in February 2009.

That spin-off has yet to happen, and project leader Stan Skafidas said, in August 2009, that it was proving difficult to get the estimated $10m needed from the venture capital market to make this happen.

NICTA now has a team in the US under Pat Kelly pursuing its search for venture funding and he told iTWire he was confident that this would be achieved and that NICTA's technology would be successful against competing 60GHz technologies that appear to have gained a head start.


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"We are getting a lot of interest from potential partners and customers and I expect we'll be fine," he told iTWire. "NICTA's persistence to stick with the vision is really going to pay off."

However, Kelly was coy about giving any indication of future developments. "We have made no announcements of an external company and right now all the intellectual property is still within NICTA'¦I don't want to comment too much on what the steps between us and mass production [of 60GHz chipsets] but a spin out and commercialistion is a big piece of that.

"When we have secured the funding we will be able to give you much more details. We are getting a very good reception and I think it is a testament to the investment that NICTA has made and al the hard work by the researchers to come up with something that is clearly differentiated."

Speaking to iTWire from the US, where he is based, Kelly said: "I am driving the spin out and commercialisation of the technology I have been brought in as interim CEO of the spin out. All the technology is being developed in Australia had we have a few folks in the US looking at the business and standards side."

Market research firm ABI Research has just issued a report predicting a market for two million 60GHz chipsets by 2015, but Kelly believes this greatly underestimates the market potential for the technology.


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"I would be very disappointed if by 2015 there had only been two million chipsets sold," Kelly said. We see this as a billion unit market by 2020. By 2020 we see this in every mobile phone, in every TV in every PC."

"It will be as ubiquitous as USB. Imagine everybody in every queue wanting 1Gbps. You can't do that with WiFi. You can't get the spectrum re-use. There is no doubt that in the long term 60GHz is going to be a winner."

However just who will be the winner(s) is unclear: there are presently two industry camps backing different proprietary technologies - WirelessHD and the WiGig Alliance - and standards development underway within the IEEE's 802.11 working group to develop a 60GHz standard, 802.11ad.

WirelessHD was formed in November 2006 by Broadcom, Intel, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Philips Electronics, NEC, Samsung Electronics, SiBeam, Sony and Toshiba. It is backed primarily by US chipmaker SiBeam and is ahead in the commercialisation race. Last October it unveiled its second generation chipset claiming it to be the only product on the market to support wireless delivery of lossless 1080p HD video.

The newer, WiGig Alliance was formed in May 2009 by Atheros Communications, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell International, MediaTek, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics and Wilocity.


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According to ABI Research, today, WirelessHD is available in products using the unlicensed 60GHz frequency band and has forty companies among its promoters and adopters. Its initial use-case is for streaming of HDTV signals within the home.

In the other camp, "Twenty-six companies are behind the Wireless Gigabit Alliance and its WiGig standard, which is aimed initially at allowing WLAN devices to communicate at gigabit speeds within a typical room."

However, according to ABI Research analyst, Xavier Ortiz, "Two disadvantages inhibit WirelessHD's adoption and negate its first-to-market advantage. First, the transmitters and receivers are expensive, in the $600-1000 range. They are also power-hungry."

WiGig products, according to ABI Research, "are still on the drawing-board, but the standard aims to be part of the existing Wi-Fi ecosystem through Wi-Fi access points that include WiGig chipsets. Such an arrangement would open up the colossal existing Wi-Fi market to WiGig vendors."

Ortiz says: "If the Wi-Fi Alliance chooses to join WiGig for a 60GHz solution. WiGig will likely be successful.

Kelly was dismissive of WirelessHD, despite its lead, saying it was basically "a one company [Sibeam] technology." He predicted that WiGig would likely evolve into the 802.11ad standard.


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"Our expectation is that WiGig will be presented as one option for 802.11ad and the WiFi Alliance will have its process through which it will ultimate certify 60Ghhz product with the WiFi brand.

"The IEEE working group has just started to hear proposals and so we expect it to be 2-3 years to a draft standard'¦Our expectation is that the years for 60GHz commercialisation will be 2012 to 2015 and beyond. That is when you will have interoperability between multiple vendors chipsets." According to the IEEE's web site, 802.11ad is scheduled for finalisation in December 2012.

Kelly declined to say how NICTA was positioning its 60GHz technology in this scenario, but did give an indication of NICTA's approach.

"What Sibeam [WirelessHD] has done is focus on HDMI cable replacement. They have to completely replicate the experience of that cable. We have a different vision. Our vision is that wireless standards have been successful when they enable you to do something that you have to do over and over again. Replacing a cable that you only have to install once with wireless does not make a lot of sense,

"But when you want to send a video from your mobile to you TV every night or every weekend, that is a great place for wireless to improve the consumer experience.

He added: "We believe there are different ways of looking at this market. I have yet to see anyone out there who has hit on the right way to deliver 60Gig and that is our opportunity."

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