CBR talks to WiFI Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa about WiGig, which aims to take wi-fi to the next level and power the IoT, VR and video needs of the future.
Nowadays, wi-fi is not just desired but expected by people in most places. It may be patchy or slow, but it is hopefully there.
Now a body called the WiFI Alliance is trying to take wi-fi to the next quality level with a new technology called WiGig, which could bring the higher speeds and lower latency required as we enter the Internet of Things era.
WiGig uses a new radio using wi-fi technology. It transmits traffic across a much higher frequency band than wi-fi, allowing it to move considerably more traffic: the 60 GHz range. This has traditionally been avoided due to a high absorption level of oxygen and water.
WiGig uses beamforming, which focuses a directed signal between devices, eliminating interference in the connection.
Unlike the frequency bands used for wi-fi, which are shared with other radio technologies such as Bluetooth, the 60 GHz range is relatively unused.
Most impressively, proponents claim that it can transmit data at 8 Gbps: fast enough to transmit 5GB of data in 12 seconds.
On the downside, the high frequency means that WiGig has a lower wavelength and so its reach is limited.
Edgar Figueroa, who has been CEO at WiFi Alliance since 2007, says that the technology will enable a “new era” in connectivity.
Figueroa is in London for the Wi-Fi NOW event, where WiFi Alliance has just launched a certification for WiGig that will allow multi-vendor interoperability for WiGig devices.
Figueroa says that WiGig will be ready for the huge increase in bandwidth demand that is expected in the next few years, as downloading of video becomes more and more of a pull on connectivity resources.
According to Cisco Forecast, video will represent 69 percent of all consumer-based Internet traffic by 2017, a figure which is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2019.
He says that virtual reality could be a potential use-case, since “it is not only demanding in terms of data but also requires low latency.”
Other possibilities could be connecting campuses and eliminating the wires being used in display monitors.
The company has talked to airports that are interested in using WiGig to do an instant download of data from the black box of an aircraft. Another possibility is that kiosks could use WiGig to send high-definition films almost instantly to a user’s device.
“With WiGig, it may be that new applications are enabled. These applications have been hypothetical because the connectivity has not been there.”
Overall, Figueroa believes that the proliferation of WiGig will be driven by the use-cases of devices.
Consumers may see the technology being built into devices such as televisions, meaning that the inconvenience of having to connect multiple wires can be dispensed with.
Figueroa says that we will see smartphones with WiGig in the next year.
“A handset might have multiple radios and you might be able to move across a house or network where it searches back and forth between WiGig and traditional wi-fi,” he says.
According to WiFi Alliance figures, by 2018 there will be 570 million WiGig devices. By 2021, there will apparently be 4.7 billion devices.
Products that are already certified with the standard have been built by Dell, Intel, Peraso, Qualcomm and Socionext.
Outside of device-makers, Facebook is another high-profile company that is exploring the technology. As part of the social network’s ambition to bring internet to underserved areas of the world, Facebook has been exploring WiGig as part of its Terragraph system.
Figueroa notes that broadband connections are not yet at the point where wi-fi is often the bottleneck for connectivity. It may seem optimistic to UK readers to be talking about 8 Gbps connectivity when the UK Government is currently pushing a 10 Mbps universal service obligation through parliament and gigabit connectivity is available to a tiny proportion of households.
However, WiGig could play a key role in improving this connectivity. Rather than the high cost of fibre being connected all the way to a premises, an area might have a local fibre line that provides the high bandwidth broadband.
A WiGig connection could then push the high connectivity out from that single connection point, removing the need to dig a trench for the last five metres.
For the time being, though, WiGig’s main use will be in connecting devices to each other.
We are only at the standard-setting phase, but if it delivers on its promises WiGig should become a key technology in the future.