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Miracast vs. UltraGig battle continues to brew

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Miracast? UltraGig? Wi-Fi?

Miracast, the wireless screencast standard from the WiFi Alliance, has shown a path that enables projection of personal media (or Web content readily available on mobile devices) onto a bigger-screen TV. It does so by completely bypassing artificial constraints put up by broadcasters or other service operators who often prefer a walled garden approach to their Internet offerings.

As Brian O'Rourke, senior principal analyst at IHS, explains it, "Miracast (previously known as Wi-Fi Display) is a software layer that enables Wi-Fi silicon with peer-to-peer connection capability." Although Miracast is different from Wi-Fi's traditional point-to-multi-point architecture, its application has the ability to "mirror whatever is on the smaller screen onto the larger screen."

In contrast, UltraGig is a proprietary 60GHz technology that Silicon Image is pursuing. Its original 60GHz wireless technology comes from SiBeam, which Silicon Image acquired in 2011. Silicon Image has given WirelessHD C originally developed by SiBeam C its own, new name: UltraGig.

Just to refresh your memory, WirelessHD is the highest bandwidth wireless video transport solution currently available in commercial quantities. O'Rourke explained that it's optimised for uncompressed 1080p video transmission, so it should not suffer from packet loss or artifacts created by compressed solutions, such as those which use MPEG compression.

Both Miracast and UltraGig showed similar demos of peer-to-peer wireless connectivity in a living room using smartphones.

Nvidia shows off Miracast.

Many chip companiesincluding MediaTek, Nvidia and Broadcomtouted Miracast at CES. However, Tim Vehling, Silicon Image's vice president/general manager of wireless division, found CES the perfect forum to pitch and highlight UltraGig's virtues as it operates on 60GHz.

Vehling pointed out that the UltraGig demos "suffered from none of the interference that Miracast has from the many Wi-Fi devices in the market." He claimed that "the only way people could show Miracast at CES was by doing it off the show floor (a la MediaTek in a private suite at the Sands)," or in some instances, by faking it (using an MHL cable, for example).

Peter Cooney, practice director for wireless connectivity and semiconductors at ABI Research, agreed. He said that some of the Miracast demos might have been using 802.11n, "so it would not have been a fair comparison." At any rate, Cooney said, "it was an incredibly noisy environment at CES."

Wi-Fi: Mega-highway inside the home

There is no denying that Wi-Fi continues to be the mega-highway inside the home. More than 1.5 billion Wi-Fi devices were sold in 2012 alone, according to ABI Research.

But that, in turn, could give rise to some legitimate concerns over congestion and robustness with Wi-Fi devices in the future. Silicon Image is betting the farm (and its UltraGig) on that side of the argument.

Beyond the congestion issues, Vehling offered UltraGig's low latency and better video quality as advantages. "60GHz Wireless HD offers less than 5ms of latency," said Vehling, stressing its importance for gaming applications. Further, "due to increased bandwidth offered by 60GHz, video quality is better," he added. "H.264 compression is not used."

So what's the bottom line?

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