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Wi-Fi and UWB to play leapfrog in home entertainment, says ABI Research
[June 29, 2004]

Wi-Fi and UWB to play leapfrog in home entertainment, says ABI Research

Technologies for networking home entertainment equipment will compete for dominance over the next five years, but ultimately Wi-Fi will use 802.11n to continue its early lead, according to a new study by ABI Research.

The report, "Wi-Fi Home Entertainment Networks," identifies three candidates for wireless home entertainment networking: powerline networking, Wi-Fi (802.11x) and Ultra Wide Band (UWB). ABI Research believes that the real contest will be between Wi-Fi and UWB.

Phil Solis, ABI Research senior analyst, points out that although the official data transmission rate of the 802.11a and 802.11g protocols is 54 Mbps, the actual throughput is only about half that, due to the communications overhead required.

The UWB standard will offer theoretical speeds up to 480 Mbps, says Solis. However the first generation of UWB chipsets coming off the assembly lines in 2005 and into actual equipment in 2006-2007, will only offer 100-200 Mbps, and that doesn't take the required overhead into account.

Meanwhile the standard for the next member of the 802.11 family - 802.11n - will have been ratified. The result? "Wi-Fi will continue to work its way into home entertainment networking, and will become entrenched," says Solis. "By the time UWB comes out - or just a little later - 802.11n solutions will start to appear."

That may spell trouble for UWB, because 802.11n will offer actual throughput of 100 Mbps, after wireless overhead is accounted for - enough for multiple high-definition video streams.

"In the end," concludes Solis, "UWB will wind up being faster, and the chipsets will be cheaper. But if it's going to compete with Wi-Fi in home entertainment networking, it will probably be in non-real-time data transfer, such as moving video from a camera or camcorder to a PC, where distance is not an issue."

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