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HD should be wired: Intel

Current wireless networking standards aren't fit for streaming high-definition (HD) content between a media centre PC and multiple extender devices, according to Intel and Microsoft.


Current wireless networking standards aren't fit for streaming high-definition (HD) content between a media centre PC and multiple extender devices, according to Intel and Microsoft.

A core feature of Intel's Viiv standard and Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system is the ability to wirelessly stream audio and video content from a Viiv/Vista-enabled PC to media extenders, such as the Xbox 360, that have been strategically placed around your house.

But according to Kamil Gurgen, Channel Platform Manager for Intel Australia, while "standard definition [video content] will work wirelessly without an issue", streaming HD content brings more network load than the current wireless standards can handle.

"A recommendation from the Viiv spec is that high-definition should be wired at this moment," Gurgen told CNET.com.au.

While presenting Vista Media Center at the Tech.Ed 2006 conference in Sydney this week, Mark O'Shea, OEM Systems Engineer at Microsoft Australia, demonstrated a Vista PC streaming five different HD (1080i/1080p) media files, each to one of five Xbox 360 extenders.

The demonstration took place over a wired Gigabit (1000Mbps) network, and the network load as displayed by Vista fluctuated between 20-25Mbps -- well within the 802.11g Wi-Fi specification's maximum theoretical bandwidth of 54Mbps.

Despite this, Microsoft's O'Shea was quick to point out that, if the demonstration used a wireless network, the network load would be far higher due to differences in efficiency between wired and wireless networking.

"You've also got to remember though that wired connectivity is a lot more efficient than when you start putting it [HD content] over wireless," said O'Shea, adding that the real-world bandwidth of 802.11g would "probably top out around 22Mbps".

Intel's Gurgen added that in addition to efficiency differences, one must also consider other network traffic when weighing up a move to wireless.

"Remember that at that one time when you're streaming content it's probably not the only thing that's happening. You could be sending e-mails, you could be downloading some sort of update," said Gurgen.

Both O'Shea and Gurgen declined to comment on whether or not the upcoming 802.11n Wi-Fi standard would make wireless streaming of HD content throughout the home viable.