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Inching closer to wireless hi-def video

The Wireless Home Digital Interface standard is set to be completed this year, then embedded in TVs and set-top boxes next year, says chipmaker Amimon.

The backers of Wireless Home Digital Interface plan to announce they are officially banding together Wednesday. But we're still months, or even a year from true, interoperable devices that can send high-definition video between themselves.

Wireless Home Digital Interface, or WHDI, sends uncompressed, high-definition video signals over the unlicensed 5-Gigahertz band. The backers of it say its immune to obstructions like walls and can deliver a signal that covers an entire home--that means setting up a set-top box in a basement and connecting it wirelessly to a 1080p TV in an upstairs bedroom.

But we've been hearing this stuff for years. Several different standards have been proposed, and consumer electronics vendors have even announced products, but they've been very slow to trickle out to the market.

Belkin FlyWire
One of the few wireless HD video devices that's made it to market. Belkin

There's been more movement in this industry of late (Sony, and Sharp have released wireless HD video products this year, and Belkin is promising something for October), but we're still waiting for the floodgates to open where all the top-tier manufacturers have TVs with a wireless HD connectivity option.

Amimon, the chipmaker behind the WHDI technology, says that time is next year. WHDI can count Hitachi, Motorola, Sony, Samsung, and Sharp among its charter members, and once the standard is completed later this year, consumers will have many more options for wireless HD video products, according to Amimon's chief executive, Yoav Nissan-Cohen.

"This year you buy products that solve the problem you have, like Belkin's FlyWire kit," said Nissan-Cohen. It doesn't yet meet the standard's goal of having any source using WHDI be able to connect to any screen, but he says that's fine for now.

"Next year you can get multi-vendor, interoperable devices," he said.

Though Nissan-Cohen says the WHDI standard is following along the same path and attempting to build a consortium the way the HDMI standard did--lining up the technology and key hardware players one by one--we've been hearing "next year" for a while now when it comes to this space. Plus, WHDI isn't the only game in town.

In fact, it's got several competitors. WirelessHD is one: it uses the 60-Gigahertz band to send high-def video between devices, though it is limited to one room and can't go through walls. But it does have some of the same vendors on board, like Sony and Samsung. There's also ultrawideband solutions, but they've had more trouble getting off the ground.

Still, Nissan-Cohen of Amimon says next year you'll see TVs that have wireless receivers built in for a premium of approximately $100 to $200 (right now an add-on WHDI dongle costs about $400 or $500). And in a three to five years, or when shipping volumes reach 10 million or higher, the wireless HD device should only cost $10 extra to have the technology inside. By then, he says it will be the "default option to every TV and every source device."

I certainly hope so, but for now, we'll take this one with the requisite grain of salt.