Chips are here, but wireless HDMI still out of sight

A chipset promising to allow users to send high-definition video wirelessly throughout the home faces hurdles in the market because of competing technology standards, market researcher Gartner said Monday.

Tzero Technologies announced a new chipset earlier this month called ZeroWire, which can carry HD video wirelessly between devices, therefore eliminating the need for HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cables. The chips also can stream HD signals through coaxial cable, the wires that carry cable TV to many U.S. homes. Any device outside the range of the wireless signal can use the coaxial cable connection instead. The technology was designed to make sure people didn't have to tear open walls to run new cables capable of carrying HD signals, instead making use of existing wires.

The chipsets will likely be used to develop a number of wireless entertainment devices aimed at the home, including digital set-top boxes and HD TVs; DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players; game consoles and media center PCs. The chipsets are designed to transmit HD video wirelessly in a 10- to 20-meter range, according to Tzero. Devices out of range could receive HD content over coaxial cables instead. Several device makers are developing products with them, including Audiovox, Gefen and Asustek Computer.

But competing standards could hold the technology back for while, according to Gartner. ZeroWire competes against technology developed by the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), which has gained favor as the right way to go for whole home HD video delivery, the market researcher says. ZeroWire uses ultra wideband technology developed by the WiMedia Alliance and already accepted as the ECMA International standard. ECMA, which used to stand for European Computer Manufacturers Association before it changed its name, is a membership-based group established to promote device compatibility in Europe.

Gartner expects that consumer electronics manufacturers will take a conservative approach to this new technology until a standard approach becomes more clear, said Stan Bruederle, a Gartner analyst, in the report.

Further complicating the issue is that Tzero's rivals are marketing incompatible technologies of their own for wireless HD and HD over coaxial cables, Gartner said. One company, PulseLink, last week filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Tzero over ultra wideband communication technologies, and claims it has been first in wireless HDMI and HD over coaxial cable transmission.

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