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Pushing 60

5:15 PM -- I’ve been saying for some time that the unlicensed spectrum at 60 GHz is the next frontier in short-range, high-speed networking. 60 GHz is the oxygen-absorption band, and for this reason, and because building 60 GHz chips to this point has involved very expensive gallium-arsenide (GaAs) technology, it’s traditionally been used primarily for inter-satellite communications, there being no oxygen in space and GaAs being needed for reasons of radiation hardening. But we can now do 60 GHz with silicon-germanium (SiGe) chips, and rumor has it, next year in good old cheap CMOS. Wow! This is very exciting because there’s 7 GHz (!) of unlicensed bandwidth available here. Sure, these waves are very directional, but a little antenna innovation goes a long way.

And, very interestingly, there’s now a trade association sponsored by no less than LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), SiBeam Inc. , Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), and Toshiba Corp. (Tokyo: 6502) formed to get the technology product-ready. Called WirelessHD, there’s a clear emphasis here on residential video distribution applications -- and that’s to be expected. Sending uncompressed HDMI signals around is going to become quite hot as HDTV catches on (and maybe the networks will produce more than a smattering of programming in HD to help us along here…). Sure, this can also be done with ultra-wideband, as Radiospire, is doing, but 60 GHz should have better range once the antenna issues are worked out -- something that WirelessHD is also looking at.

But even more exciting is the possibility of 60GHz wireless LANs. Let’s see, at one bit/Hz, that’s SEVEN Gbit/s raw throughput! Holy cow! And they said WLANs would never have the throughput to rival wire. Now it’s not just rival -- it’s thrash! OK, soon. I hope.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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