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Chips support wireless video over home nets

Posted: 08 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:vixs systems? matrix? xcode? wireless communications processor? 802.11a?

Building on the earlier launch of its XCode video chip, ViXS Systems Inc. is offering a companion IEEE 802.11a wireless communications processor that lets standards-based 802.11a hardware fully support wireless video.

The Matrix chip is designed for gateway appliances, using two 802.11a channels to enable the distribution of video to multiple wireless devices. Together, the chips provide an end-to-end wireless video solution for home networks.

The combination of Matrix and XCode allows media gateways and access points to stream video simultaneously to digital devices - such as laptops, Webpads, PDAs, personal video recorders, game consoles, and next-generation HDTVs - that use basic off-the-shelf 802.11 device cards.

"The chipset has solved a very difficult and very real problem for the consumer electronics and PC industries, and we are seeing great demand with our partners in the United States and Japan," said Sally Daub, President and CEO of ViXS.

XCode is a Moving Picture Experts Group/video network processor that guarantees a broadcast-quality video stream at 30fps with QoS that is expected from reliable broadcast-quality video transmission.

All about reliability

"Rather than tackle the bandwidth restriction problem from a data-centric point of view, we opted to ignore the pipe and concentrate on providing a reliable video stream no matter how narrow or wide the pipe," said Wendell Smith, marketing manager of the company's U.S. development center in Austin, Texas.

The inherent variability of an 802.11 (WiFi) wireless network presents challenges for streaming broadcast-quality video to multiple devices. These include the distance a remote client is from the gateway device and impediments, such as doors and walls, typically found in the home environment.

Also, only a limited number of client devices can accommodate broadcast-quality video. For that matter, only one client device receiving video from the WiFi network would typically use the full capacity of the available bandwidth.

ViXS' solution, including a video network processor, 802.11 chip and network management software, is said to deliver video QoS throughout the home.

The market that ViXS is pursuing is potentially huge, but so far has been hampered by inconsistent and unreliable video experiences. If the frame rate is below 30fps, video quality becomes poor, and if that quality deteriorates further because the transmitted data is dependent on available bandwidth, the viewing experience is intolerable.

"We think that we can change that equation with our two-chip set for home networks that sport multiple video reception terminals, whether they be TVs or PCs," said Smith.

Sanguine forecasts

The potential market for home networks can be derived from several market research firms' data. In 2004, IDC predicts 69 million set-top boxes, a media gateway for the home. Also next year, Cahners/In-Stat expects 21 million home gateways, 51 percent of which will distribute video content. In-Stat/MDR forecasts 33 million 802.11 devices sold by 2006.

In addition, 81 million TV sets will be sold in 2003, and 147 million PCs are sold worldwide every year, according to industry sources. Together with an anticipated 350 percent increase in wireless LANs, all that data points to a home network composite that is hard to ignore.

As with every new market opportunity, growth depends on the confluence of market demand and technological viability: If the technology is not there, opportunities are forfeited, and if there is clear demand, technical obstacles may not produce the needed results.

In wireless home networks, the needed bandwidth has long been considered the stumbling block to transmitting reliable QoS content. But a data-centric model may not be the most efficient way to ensure reliable broadcast-quality video. By concentrating on transmitting quality video over any size channel, ViXS is turning the bandwidth problem on its head. "Our video-centric approach to QoS guarantees broadcast-quality video throughout a home, without wires or coax cable, and video can now be received on multiple clients," said Daub.

Consumer giants Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.; wireless LAN providers such as Cisco Systems Inc.; and media gateway providers such as Microsoft Corp., with its E-home and Longhorn projects, support ViXS' approach and may be among the first companies to climb aboard when the chip set becomes available in volume in the second quarter. Samples of the Matrix chip are to be available in Q1; consumer electronics companies are already sampling the XCode chip.

"ViXS has redefined the unique requirements for an end-to-end video networking solution that enables reliable and robust transmission across a video-over-IP network," said ViXS' Daub.

- Nicolas Mokhoff

EE Times





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