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Wireless streaming standard approved

An industry standards group approves a wireless streaming standard designed to set the groundwork for a new generation of digital entertainment products.

An industry standards group has completed a new wireless networking standard that will lay the groundwork for a new generation of digital entertainment products.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said Wednesday it has finished the 802.15.3 standard, ensuring that digital content streamed over a wireless network will have a "guaranteed level of service," said Robert Heile, chairman of the IEEE's 802.15 working group and chief technology officer of Appairent.

"The standard essentially guarantees that nothing will interfere with a stream" after a link is established between a client device and the network, Heile said.

The standard, which was officially completed in June, allows data to be transmitted at 55Mbps for 100 yards and operates in the 2.4GHz frequency band. Networks using 802.15.3 also will be able to switch channels automatically if interference is detected from cordless phones or other networks, Heile said. The network was designed to coexist with other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and 802.11, or Wi-Fi.

Heile added that Wi-Fi networks were designed to stream data, not video and audio content.

Whether 802.15.3 achieves widespread adoption depends on how rapidly existing technologies, such as Wi-Fi, will be enhanced to also improve streaming quality, said Ian McPherson, an analyst with research firm Wireless Data Research Group.

"There will be a need for quality of service as digital content matures," McPherson said. "Which technology gets there first and which can establish a market-leading position first will determine which is most successful."

Indeed, consumer electronics and PC companies have been developing wireless products based on 802.11 to share resources and content stored on different devices.

Heile expects devices using the 802.15.3 standard to be available by the end of 2004. The first products will likely be dongles costing $100 to $150 that will establish connections between consumer electronics devices and PCs.