WiGig’s Dr. Ali Sadri: Wi-Fi joined forces with WiGig to “prevent consumer confusion”

We recently met with with Dr. Ali Sadri, the president and chairman of the board of the Wireless Gigabit alliance to discuss about the future of the organisation now that its merger with the Wi-Fi Alliance has been announced, as well as the publication by the IEEE of the 802.11ad MAC & PHY specifications.

Sadri started our meeting by revealing that the first joint certification programme post-merger will occur towards the end of the month (ed : the joint PlugFest is taking place on 24 January). He also reaffirmed the fact WiGig and Wi-Fi have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and are still at the negotiation stage before eventually signing an agreement and ultimately transferring WiGig’s assets and brand over to the Wi-Fi Alliance. He also disclosed that the reason why WiGig was acquired was because it is complementary with Wi-Fi, before adding “we can do things that Wi-Fi cannot […] plus a lot more”.

He hailed WiGig as a natural progression of Wi-Fi and extending the latter’s current remit by offering short distance (up to 10m), high performance transfer rates (up to 7Gbps in theory, around 70 per cent that in reality) - for example, replacing wires between a laptop and a monitor.

The full certification of the WiGig technology is likely take place later this year or in Q1 2014. By then, multiple manufacturers should have products ready, where WiGig will be a checkpoint on a product’s spec sheet.

Sadri also confirmed that the Dell Latitude 6430u Ultrabook uses a pre-certified Qualcomm Atheros chipset that covers 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 60GHz bands.

WiGig, he says, will “survive for the next two years” and will then be wound down. From a certification point of view, Wi-Fi will have gained a lot by merging with WiGig, despite the latter being only four years old, creating a brand and a technology that didn’t previously exist.

Sadri also acknowledged that there has hitherto been “a slight confusion” regarding where WiGig stood vis-à-vis Wi-Fi, which he considers to be a major stumbling block.

Many saw the former as a direct competitor to the latter when in fact they were complimentary as he puts it “a natural progression”. Had this merger not happened, he said, “consumers would be confused” as to whether “they would need two devices to get Wi-Fi and WiGig”.

The confusion and uncertainty surrounding the two standards could have been detrimental to both according to Sadri. But now, the tide has turned and customers as well as ODMs are looking forward to the joint standard, with around 40 meetings having taken place at CES this year.

Turning to how things will evolve in the hardware, he stated that there is the need for a new MAC as engineers can’t reuse the old MAC as well as different radios (for 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 60GHz bands). Ultimately though, convergence will mean that all wireless silicon will be confined to one socket and that the cost of adding WiGig would be negligible.

In addition, Sadri posited that the inclusion of 802.11ad (WiGig) in the mix may ironically move the focus away from the fallacy of maximum theoretical speed. “Today when you connect to Wi-Fi, you never ask the question whether you’re connected to 802.11a or 802.11b - it is Wi-Fi, I’ve got a network, it’s connected, and it’s free”.

He also waxed-lyrical about the capabilities of WiGig’s partners, especially those based in Taiwan who innovate impressively when presented with a disruptive technology. “I was not a believer of Taiwan [capacity to innovate] until we opened an office there. You give a technology to [the] Taiwanese, they come with amazing gadgets”.

He also highlighted the fact that WiGig has integrated the H.264 codec, offering the 4.4.4 profile which makes it ideal for desktop-like applications which are text heavy (like displaying the content of an email on a wireless screen without smearing or artefacts).

When we questioned the chairman of WiGig over the rivalry with WirelessHD, pioneered by Silicon Image, Sadri reaffirmed that WiGig is more generic, going beyond HDMI cable replacement. WiGig can act as Wi-Fi replacement in an IP-based scenario and as a cable replacement in a non-IP-based one, running both simultaneously.

But he did acknowledge the great job done by the WirelessHD ecosystem to educate partners over the benefits of wirelessly transmitting data over the ultrawideband spectrum.