Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wireless High-Definition TV on the Horizon

Wireless technologies are deployed everywhere. We've got wireless phones, wireless Internet and wireless home networks. Next, coming to a living room or commercial facility near you, is wireless high-definition television (HDTV).

However, the market is still in its incubation stage, with fewer than 100,000 devices expected to ship this year. According to a market study by ABI Research, optimistic forecasts point to 2012 as the earliest year for the milestone of one million wireless HDTV installations worldwide.

Meanwhile, a battle of technologies is being fought. There are three contending wireless systems, loosely characterized as 5 GHz, 60 GHz, and ultra wideband (UWB).

"5 GHz technology is better understood and more proven," says ABI principal analyst Steve Wilson, "but achieving the required data rates requires new approaches and more complex solutions. UWB technology has bandwidth advantages at in-room distances but drops rapidly at greater ranges. 60 GHz allows high data rates, but so far only one company is even close to a viable solution."

Small numbers of 5 GHz and UWB devices are currently shipping. Demo products of 60 GHz systems are expected early next year. "Over the next two to three years, we're going to see one or two of these wireless HDTV approaches emerge as the primary ones," says Wilson.

Perhaps you're wondering who would want wireless HDTV and why? Wireless will simplify some video installations and allow more flexibility in positioning TVs. There are both commercial applications -- digital signage, for example -- and in-home applications such as wall-mounting a flat-screen HDTV.

The initial demand in the market is where traditional wired installation would be difficult or complicated.

All the wireless HDTV silicon vendors are venture-backed start-ups and most established wireless vendors are waiting to see how the market evolves. Product manufacturers are moving forward with different strategies -- some, like Westinghouse and Belkin are initially targeting commercial and custom installers where there is clear value-add.

In contrast, some TV manufacturers such as Sharp and Hitachi are targeting buyers of their latest technology, offering design-oriented, elegant products that come with a wireless connectivity option.