High-speed wireless video transfers on tap

* IBM and MediaTek partner to build ultrafast wireless chipsets

New wireless broadband technology on tap from IBM and MediaTek promises to change the way video is delivered -- and at the same time help tame the sea of cables needed to connect TVs, handhelds, PCs and other video-sharing devices.

IBM and MediaTek are working together to develop ultrafast chipsets that can wirelessly transmit a full-length, high-definition movie “nearly as fast as a viewer can push their remote control,” the companies say. Positioned as a faster wireless networking alternative to Wi-Fi, the technology is aimed at speeding video transfers between devices including home PCs, handhelds, retail kiosks and TVs

The collaborative effort depends on millimeter wave (mmWave) radio technology, which is the highest frequency portion of the radio spectrum where massive amounts of information can be sent quickly. The large bandwidth for data transmission available at the mmWave frequency band enables at least 100 times higher data rates than current Wi-Fi standards, IBM and MediaTek claim. With speeds like that, a person could upload a 10 gigabyte file in five seconds vs. 10 minutes using current Wi-Fi technology.

In a home or office setting, mmWave wireless technology can enable users to download multimedia content or stream uncompressed HDTV from a DVD player, for example. A user also could wirelessly download music and videos to a handheld device.

"This collaborative effort will enable consumers to wirelessly transfer large multimedia data files around their home and/or offices in seconds," said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president of science and technology at IBM Research, in a statement. "This will enable a world where you can have your entertainment when you want and where you want it."

To that end, one aesthetic benefit of using mmWave radio technology for multimedia transmissions is that consumers will be able to get rid of the wires connecting an HDTV to set top boxes, for example. Given the sleek profiles of today’s televisions, it’s not hard to imagine the visual improvement that could be gained if some of the wires go away. It also opens the door to more flexible space planning -- set-top devices can be located where it’s convenient and looks good, instead of being tethered to the TV.

IBM has been doing mmWave technology R&D for the last four years. Last year the company demonstrated a prototype packaged chipset as small as a dime to wirelessly transmit uncompressed HD video. IBM used its 0.13-micron silicon germanium BiCMOS process to manufacture the chips, it says.

Headquartered in Taiwan, MediaTek is a fabless semiconductor company for wireless communications and digital media solutions.

Together the two companies will collaborate to integrate IBM's new mmWave radio chips, antenna and package technology with MediaTek's expertise in digital baseband and video processing chips.

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