Next-Gen Wi-Fi Promises Blazing Speeds

Imagine wirelessly zapping a high-definition movie in seconds to your notebook PC to take along on a plane trip. Or streaming that same film to the laptop for viewing from your easy chair. Tech companies are gearing up to deliver such visions.

Some of the same people who brought us Wi-Fi, that mainstay of laptop life, are expected soon to embrace another communications technology that has much shorter range but much higher transmission speed -- well over a gigabit per second. Instead of sending data all around your home and office, think about moving massive files from within the same room.

Underlying the higher speeds is a higher radio frequency -- 60 gigahertz, compared to the 2.4-gigahertz and 5-gigahertz bands used by Wi-Fi. In that range, relatively wide swathes of unlicensed radio spectrum are available, allowing for “big fat data pipes,” says Xavier Ortiz, an analyst at ABI Research.

Exactly how that technology may be combined with Wi-Fi remains to be seen. Mr. Ortiz thinks that speed grades may be offered based on distance; a laptop might download files at extremely high data rates at three feet from a wireless access point, for example, and somewhat lower speeds at seven feet and lower still at 15 feet, he suggests. Then, presumably, if users roam outside the range of 60-gigahertz technology they would default to Wi-Fi speeds.

Industry executives expect more details to emerge as soon as Monday from the Wi-Fi Alliance, possibly in collaboration with another industry consortium called the Wireless Gigabit Alliance. (A spokesman for the Wi-Fi group declined comment; a spokeswoman for WiGig, as the second group is called for short, could not immediately be reached).

Another industry consortium, known as WirelessHD, has already delivered a 60-gigahertz technology for consumer electronics applications -- essentially offering a wireless replacement for the cables now needed to connect devices like Blu-ray players to high-definition TVs.

Consumers can buy plug-in adapters to connect two devices together using the technology, a pricey option that now costs hundreds of dollars. Several TV makers, including Sony, LG and Panasonic are also starting to build the technology into some models, and Vizio announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that it would follow suit, says John Marshall, WirelessHD’s chairman.

For more information, see the full story at The Wall Street Journal.