Monday, December 19, 2011

Wireless Video Streaming Products Using Wi-Fi, Not Waiting for WiGig or 802.11ad

Wireless video streaming solutions aim to
reduce the cabling mess behind your television set
Wireless video streaming, specifically cable replacement technologies, are emerging in the marketplace. Standards are being defined to fill this need with WiGig and 802.11ad in the 60GHz frequency band.

But consumer electronics companies aren't waiting around, using existing 5GHz U-NII unlicensed bands with 802.11n.

Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) compatible laptops and TV adapters have been around since early 2010. It requires specific system specifications, including a Wireless-N adapter. But it wasn't until earlier this year that Intel incorporated WiDi support for DRM protected DVD and Blu-Ray content, expanding consumer interest.

Intel WiDi streams video from laptops to your HDTV
through a compatible adapter using 802.11n Wi-Fi

And consumer electronics manufacturers are getting into the game too, with devices such as Actiontec's MyWirelessTV which are already available on the market.

The Actiontec MyWireless TV Kit streams video between any two
HDMI compliant devices by utilizing 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi

While SmallNetBuilder gave a glowing review of the units, significant questions remain. Actiontec specifies utilization of 802.11n technology, but the product is not currently certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Additionally, the MyWirelessTV user manual (PDF) is especially vague on key implementation details such as security. Actiontec claims the units are pre-paired and support push-button sync, most likely for use when pairing additional receivers. Does this use Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)? Likely not, given the lack of WFA certification. Also, the product specifications list wireless security as "Standard Wi-Fi Security". That's intentionally vague! Why the lack of transparency, Actiontec?

Revolution or Evolution? - Andrew's Take
I think video streaming in the home will catch on quick. People hate fussing with cables, want more flexibility in where they place set-top-boxes, are increasingly desiring multi-room viewing capabilities, have gotten used to time-shifted viewing with DVRs and will want that extended to mobile devices, and want something that "just works".

I think it's also safe to assume that cable replacement technology will also be adopted in the enterprise and education markets. Numerous use-cases exist, and in-room video projectors could likely drive adoption by itself. No more tugging on cables and moving tables to accommodate projector placement during meetings! And if there is one thing the Wi-Fi industry has taught us already, it's that consumer adoption and demand will push its way into the enterprise.

Wi-Fi engineers should be prepared to ensure compatibility and performance of wireless video technologies alongside corporate Wi-Fi networks. In the short-term this means 802.11n. Long-term, WiGig and 802.11ad may alleviate co-existence concerns. The question will be, how fast will solutions emerge and when will your business want the technology?

My only ask is that consumer electronics companies take more care to ensure interoperability with existing Wi-Fi networks by achieving WFA certification, and being transparent with product specifications. In the meantime, I'd love to get my hands on one of these kits for Wi-Fi analysis :)

Do you have any experience with wireless video streaming and cable replacement solutions? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear your findings!


1 comment:

  1. You're being silly. Why on earth should this product cater to the Wi-Fi Alliance?!

    Can you imagine the faces at a test lab if Actiontec had paid and sent this in for Wi-Fi certification? So, we plug what into what now? lol And they want us to test it it operates with an Intel card? But it only works with itself!

    Even if it could be certified, the IEEE 802.11 standards and their compliance are something quite different from the Wi-Fi alliance and their certification.

    And if it uses the 802.11n standard and HT modes, then it must use CCMP encryption. This is trivial and will be engaged by default in whatever wireless chip (Broadcom/Ralink/Atheros etc) they use.

    Same thing about WPS - proprietary push-button solutions existed before, during and after this brand named get-together of a solution. Anyway, WPS has now been exposed as vulnerable and is recommended to be shut off completely...