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Tech giants back superfast WiGig standard

Major technology companies are backing a new standard that will be used to transfer high-definition video between TVs, set-top boxes, and computers.

Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Dell, and Panasonic are among several companies teaming up to form the Wireless Gigabit Alliance, a group that will push a new wireless standard for transmitting data over short distances at gigabit speeds.

The new WiGig standard will transmit data at around 6 gigabits per second, which is much faster than current versions of Wi-Fi. The speedy wireless technology should easily be able to deliver high-definition video between computers and TV set-top boxes.

But because the technology only transmits over shorter distances, it will primarily be used within a single room to provide wireless connectivity between home entertainment equipment. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi transmits slower signals over longer distances and can provide wireless connectivity throughout an entire home.

WiGig isn't the only wireless technology that has been designed to carry high-definition video wirelessly between devices. WirelessHD was created to transmit data video between set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. And a technology called Wireless Home Digital Interface, or WHDi, also uses technology that is similar to Wi-Fi to deliver high-speed wireless service. Ultrawideband technology has also been kicking around for years as a solution for transmitting big data loads across wireless networks.

So far none of these other technologies has taken off. But that could change. As more people sign up for high-definition TV service and as they try to stream video content from the Web to their TVs, there will be an increasing need for short-range wireless technologies to get the content from one device to another device in the living room.

And WiGig might have a better chance of being the wireless technology of choice, considering the long list of important technology companies supporting it. These backers include chipmakers Atheros, Broadcom, Marvell, and MediaTek, which are on the Wireless Gigabit Alliance's board of directions. Dell, LG Electronics, Samsung, and NEC are also on the board and are backing the technology. And Intel has several executives involved in the alliance including Ali Sadri, the group's chairman.

The WiGig standard will use the 60GHz frequency band, which is also used by WirelessHD. This unlicensed band of wireless frequency is mostly unused right now. Since many of the companies involved in the WiGig Alliance also helped contribute to standards for 802.11 Wi-Fi, it's likely that there will be some collaboration between the WiGig Alliance and the Wi-Fi Alliance.

A standard for the new technology should be ready late in 2009. And products could start hitting the market as early as next year.