1. What is the big breakthrough that makes SiBEAM unique from other wireless semi companies?
SiBEAM’s chips are the only chips for CE and PC products that can transmit 4 gigabits of data per second over-the-air â€“ that’s about 20 times faster than anything being done with Wi-Fi today. It’s an unprecedented amount of wireless bandwidth and for the first time, it allows you to send the huge streams of data needed for HDTVs and other devices. The way the company accomplishes this is by operating in the 60 gigahertz (GHz) radio band (by comparison, Wi-Fi networks operate at 2.4 or 5 GHz).
While 60 GHz technology has been around for years, the problem to date has been that these systems were extremely expensive due to the exotic materials and technologies to build such high performance circuits. The fundamental breakthrough for SiBEAM was figuring out how to create these 60 GHz circuits using standard, affordable CMOS manufacturing, the same process used to make most of the chips in the world today. This allows SiBEAM to bring this high-speed, high-performance communications technology down to a price where it could fit inside a $1,000 TV or a $200 Blu-ray disc player.
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2. What is WirelessHD?
WirelessHD is an open standards consortium formed by SiBEAM along with many of the leaders in consumer electronics and semiconductor worlds working together to define a standard specification for next-generation wireless connectivity in consumer electronics and personal computing devices. There are now more than 45 members in the consortium, including Broadcom, Intel, LG Electronics, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.
When it comes to consumer electronics, consumers want to have choices. For instance, they may want to buy a Panasonic TV or a Sony Blu-ray player. They might have a set-top box from DIRECTV or Comcast. If there wasn’t some form of standard communication interface in the market, none of these devices would be able to communicate to each other very well. Any communication technology company needs to comply with a standard so that consumers can be confident that their many devices from different manufacturers will work well together. Now, when consumers go out and buy any two devices that bear the WirelessHD logo, they know these devices will work together.
3. What’s driving TVs and other consumer electronic products to go wireless?
The convenience of wireless has become very familiar to most consumers via handheld phones, mobile phones, Wi-Fi networking, etc. This benefit can be applied now to home multimedia networks with the TV as the entry point.
For years, there’s been a trend in the TV world toward thin, flat-screen displays. A few years ago, when a plasma TV weighed 250 pounds and was four or five inches thick, it was really challenging to hang that TV on the wall. But now, modern ultra-slim TVs are less than one inch thick and weigh only 40 â€“ 50 pounds. It’s at the point where it’s just like hanging a picture on a wall â€“ put a few hooks up, hang it and you’re done. The problem is, now you’ve got this beautiful TV hanging up above the fireplace and all of these ugly wires dangling over the mantle. We need some way to get rid of the need for those wires and consumers are looking for something easier and more aesthetically pleasing than tearing up the wall to route cables. Now that we have this large bandwidth with WirelessHD, wireless becomes a viable connectivity interface for home A/V that can deliver a high quality entertainment experience.
4. Why is such large bandwidth needed for A/V applications?
With HDTV’s having over 2 million pixels being updated 60 times or more per second, A/V data is has huge bandwidth requirements. Unlike typical data communications like Wi-Fi, where the same information can be sent multiple times and errors or missed bits can be compensated for no matter how long it takes, the critical thing for consumer electronics is that you’ve got this huge, constant stream of dense information where performance is a cliff â€“ if you can’t meet it, there is simply no picture to see or one with lots of noticeable errors. We can transmit the same exact data that goes over an HDMI cable through the air, without compromise, with bit-for-bit accuracy. That’s something no other home A/V technology can accomplish. Also, now that 3D content is becoming available, even more bandwidth is required and WirelessHD is up to the task.
5. How big is the market for 60 GHz? Will SiBEAM pursue other markets and applications beyond CE?
The market for 60 GHz is in the billions of dollars including the wireless home A/V, consumer electronics and personal computing industries combined. In addition to the consumer electronics market, WirelessHD technology is already being considered for use in PCs, laptops and smartphones. In the future, our inexpensive millimeter wave chips could be used in such diverse applications as medical devices to keep cables out of the operating theater, automotive radar for collision avoidance and security applications like airport scanners.
6. What types of products are available now?
At this time, you can buy televisions from Sony, LG Electronics and Panasonic. There are also adapter pairs available from Best Buy’s Rocketfish, Gefen, Cables-To-Go and others. Adapters are like a virtual cable that you can plug into HDMI ports on existing equipment that you may already own, enabling a seamless wireless connection between the two devices. VIZIO and Toshiba announced their premium line of 3D TVs will all have WirelessHD technology, and they will be available later this year. Additionally, a VIZIO Blu-ray player is expected later this year.
7. Is WirelessHD a system that can be installed by the average homeowner or is a professional installer required?
Although we expect installers will integrate WirelessHD into their home setups, it is extremely easy for the average homeowner to install a WirelessHD network. WirelessHD technology is so simple â€“ just power on the device and it is automatically discovered. Then use the remote control that comes with your TV to manage your WirelessHD network. In fact, since WirelessHD eliminates the need for drilling holes into walls and running cable, homeowners will opt to eliminate the professional installer and can easily make a go of it on their own.
8. Please describe a typical Home Theater system setup as you would visualize it using WirelessHD?
Imagine a 55″ TV hanging on a wall. The only wire required is for power. All other devices, the digital video recorder, Blu-ray disc player, gaming console, etc. all have WirelessHD technology embedded as noted by the presence of the WirelessHD logo. The homeowner is able to place these devices at the most desired location anywhere in the living room and use the TV remote to control which of these devices serves as the input to the TV. It is just that simple. In the coming years, we anticipate mobile devices will have WirelessHD technology embedded so you can download content onto your smartphone and have the content with you wherever you are. Another scenario is that your laptop TV may have content that you want to view on the TV. In this case, you can view this content on your TV using WirelessHD technology while, at the same time, surfing the Internet using the Wi-Fi network with zero interference since the WirelessHD does not use the same part of the spectrum as Wi-Fi.
9. How soon will it be before we start to see mainstream use of WirelessHD?
WirelessHD products have been available since last year but I believe we’re about to see it go even more mainstream with the onset of products coming on the market at under $2000 for a high-end LCD TV.