Firms to cut flat-panel TV cords
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 7:51 p.m.
NEW YORK - Flat-panel TVs look lovely on a wall - the cords hanging from them, less so.
After a few years of false starts, the industry finally seems close to tackling that problem. At least three dueling wireless technologies for high-definition TVs will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which starts Monday. Manufacturers promise that sets incorporating these technologies will be in stores before the next holiday season.
The heavyweight entry in the field is WirelessHD, a consortium that includes the biggest Asian names in electronics, including Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp.
It's an unusual group, in that the home entertainment industry hasn't generally been a leader in wireless technologies - most of them have been pioneered by makers of cell phones or computer networking gear.
But the consortium is set to announce today that Intel Corp. is joining the group, which could broaden the reach of the technology from home entertainment applications to computers. Intel has been a champion of wireless technologies including Wi-Fi, and more recently, WiMax, a longer-range cousin.
The WirelessHD group is also announcing that it has completed the blueprints for chips that can beam HD audio and video from set-top boxes, DVD players and digital cameras to TV sets. The chips can be made small, and the intention is to have them built into devices, rather than be supplied in add-on adapters.
The technology uses a virgin band of the radio spectrum, around 60 gigahertz. That lets it avoid interference from other wireless networking gear and allows for extremely high data transfer rates, according to John Marshall, chairman of WirelessHD. Unlike other wireless TV solutions, WirelessHD won't need to compress the signal, which can result in a loss of quality.
To satisfy concerns by the Motion Picture Association of America, the organization of Hollywood studios, WirelessHD has intentionally limited the range of the technology.
"What WirelessHD has done is that we've made sure that the technology can cover a whole room - even a large room, up to 10 meters (30 feet) - but we've used techniques that make sure that it can't leak into the apartment next door," Marshall said.
That also means the signal won't reach from the living room into other rooms in the same home.
Jim Williams, chief technology officer of the MPAA, said in a statement that the group was "encouraged by WirelessHD's commitment to foster content protection in the wireless, digital age."
The chipmaker that is best positioned to take advantage of the specification and supply transmitting and receiving chips is SiBEAM Inc., a privately held Sunnyvale, Calif. startup that has been part of the WirelessHD group since its founding in 2006.
The other big electronics companies in the WirelessHD group, founded in 2006, are SiBEAM Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (known for its Panasonic brand), NEC Corp., LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
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