SAN JOSE, Calif. – The world's leading electronics makers have teamed up to develop a wireless technology to carry high-definition video and eliminate some of the cable spaghetti that links televisions with set-top boxes and other equipment.
Seven companies were to announce Tuesday that they formed the WirelessHD Consortium to free high-definition TVs from the tangle of cables connected to cable or satellite boxes, gaming consoles, DVD players, or even camcorders and other portable multimedia gadgets.
The companies are LG Electronics Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., known for its Panasonic brand, NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sony Corp (SNE)., and Toshiba Corp., as well as SiBEAM Inc. a wireless technology startup.
Industry analysts predicted the first products to carry the WirelessHD technology won't hit the market until at least 2008.
But unlike the challenges other emerging wireless formats face in gaining market traction, "the fact that WirelessHD has the backing of all the major electronics companies gives it a leg up," said Brian O'Rourke, a senior analyst at research firm In-Stat/MDR.
The format is designed to work within ranges of up to 32 feet — and within the same room — using the 60-gigahertz radio frequency band, said John Marshall, chairman of WirelessHD.
It will transmit high-definition video that has not been compressed digitally so users should experience the same image quality they currently get with wired HD-capable video connectors.
The WirelessHD group has been working quietly for more than a year and aims to have the technical specifications completed next spring. It intends to integrate the technology into HDTVs and a range of other audio-video equipment, as well as make it compatible with other wireless and wired video formats, Marshall said.
The consortium also expects adapters will be made so consumers with older model DVD players or set-top boxes can have the option of wireless connectivity with their HDTV sets, he said.
"In the last few years, the number of digital devices has really just amplified, and consumers are looking for a way to simply manage this A-V network," Marshall said. "This can get rid of both the spaghetti in the front and back of the television."
Transmitting HD video seamlessly and wirelessly requires a large amount of radio bandwidth and poses technical issues involving picture quality and interference.
Though WirelessHD hasn't released full details of how its technology will work, the consortium claims it will deliver high-definition video at multi-gigabit data rates — faster than any other radio technology in development.
Making a wireless technology affordable enough for manufacturers — and their customers — could be yet another obstacle.
A few chip-maker startups, such as Radiospire Networks Inc., Tzero Technologies and Pulse-LINK Inc., are using a different radio technology to develop products to stream high-definition video wirelessly, O'Rourke said, but the adapter-like devices expected to use their wireless chips will likely cost several hundred dollars.
"WirelessHD says it is targeting a low-cost solution, but we'll have to see," O'Rourke said. "Adding a couple of bucks (to the manufacturing cost) is a lot of money already."