Receive new posts as email.
This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator or JiWire, Inc.
Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2006 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.
Samsung STMicroelectronics, and Metalink have a box for you: The box isn’t the first such deal announced by Metalink, but it’s with the leading set-top box maker and video decoder chipmaker. The 802.11n part would allow digital video at HD resolutions to stream around the home. The three companies demoed the box at CeBIT in Germany this week, a trade show. The set-top box would decode video directly from cable or satellite, and probably be capable of recording programs. Production should start in third quarter 2007; the boxes aren’t sold to consumers, but bundled by programming providers.
Over at Wi-Fi Networking News, I’ve posted a long look at what we know about Draft N: In particular, I detail how the avoidance mechanisms in the current draft will allow better co-existence between 802.11b/g networks and new 802.11n networks in the 2.4 GHz band.
In the off-the-wall Ruckus Room, in which the company speaks in something approaching a real voice, they maintain that 802.11n buys you bandwidth not QoS: And they’re right, of course. They have a real nice business in providing hardware and algorithms that make IPTV (that’s video over IP) work reliably using multiple antennas and beamforming. 802.11n adds a standardized method of having multiple radios split data into simultaneous but unique streams that follow different reflective paths at the same time, which is called spatial multiplexing. It’s a way of reusing the same spectrum by sorting out signals passing through the same physical space.
Ruckus notes that this might improve bandwidth but it doesn’t do anything for ensuring that streaming video works without a hiccup. They don’t mention 802.11e, which offers prioritization of streaming video packets, in this context, but 802.11e won’t necessarily work as expected within 802.11n. Why? Because 802.11e provides a way of tagging packets to ensure that some get more precedence over others, but it doesn’t ensure that the optimal methods are used to move data so that it arrives with the least amount of lost packets or least retransmission (depending on protocol).
With video, it’s not just important that packets arrive with priority over others, but that there are no gaps in arrival longer than the buffered interval stored on the receiving device if you want to have clean streaming and avoid artifacts. Ruckus claims their technology can overlay 802.11n to provide this. It’s definitely the next big wave, with many companies talking about 802.11n as having the bandwidth for multiple simultaneous high-definition video streams.
Of course, there’s still the other IP (intellectual property) part of this equation. While specific paired devices, such as those used in Windows Media Edition systems, can move video content around a network, there’s no generic accepted approach for taking high-def off the air or off future high-def DVDs (BluRay or HD-DVD) and streaming them to other devices. That’s an application-layer problem that involves lawyers, but it’s got to be solved if the vision of HD zooming around a home is to be achieved beyond specialized home electronics.
The company has shown live demonstrations of HDTV streaming video using its upcoming WLANPlus chipset: The firm was pushing the home entertainment aspect of 802.11n, combining quality of service—which prioritizes some data over other data—and high-bandwidth with long range to stream multiple high-definition signals. The press release quotes reliable research firm ABI noting a 10fold expected increase of Wi-Fi embedded in consumer electronics from about seven million devices in 2004 to 70 million in 2007. Metalink has a partnership with Haier, the giant Chinese CE maker.
The company claims the ability to offer multiple HD streams within a radius of 100 feet. They mention channel bonding and 5 GHz, which indicates a smart use of unused frequencies that, even with poorer propagation characteristics—5 GHz photons don’t penetrate as far with the same input power as 2.4 GHz photons—can provide a good range.
Video54’s now Ruckus Wireless and is focusing on video: The company creates overlay chips and antennas that allow beamforming with spatial diversity—not exactly the spatial multiplexing of Airgo’s MIMO, but it still packs a bunch, as seen in the NetGear hardware that incorporates its first-generation technology overlayed on an Atheros chipset.
Ruckus will focus on video and has built quality-of-service (QoS) prioritization into its systems so that spatial paths can be blended with QoS to give video streams and signal paths greater priority for clearer signals. Their method is not identical to the still-in-progress 802.11e—it may be ratified this month—which has had bits and pieces turn into software and firmware in shipping products. QoS is supposed to allow different kinds of data to have different priority on the same network to keep voice, video, and data flowing without glitches.
I’ll be curious how this plays out in heterogeneous networks with many kinds of 802.11a/b/g and proprietary extension adapters using Ruckus Wireless gateways. The company can offer certain kinds of efficiencies at the hub, but as with a lot of this newer multipath technology, equipping all computers and systems with the same technology produces the optimum results.
The company seems to be expecting its technology to be hook into home-entertainment components, allowing a digital video recorder to stream its video to a remote display, among other tasks.
Its first hardware products, a gateway and an adapter, have retail prices of $169 and $129, respectively.