A team of I.B.M. researchers claim that have used standard chip-making materials to develop a high-speed wireless technology that do away with the bulky cables that now connect electronic devices in the living room.
In the past, high-frequency wireless technology has generally required exotic semiconductor materials like gallium arsenide that are costly to work with and difficult to miniaturise.This week at an annual semiconductor industry design meeting the researchers are expected to describe a design that is capable of transmitting more than 10 times the data of today’s Wi-Fi using lower-cost silicon germanium material.
The researchers said the new technology would be ideal for moving HDTV video signals around the home wirelessly in the unlicensed 60-gigahertz portion of the radio frequency spectrum. This is referred to as the “millimeter wave band,” and it has long held out the promise of carrying far more data than other portions of the spectrum. Moreover, because the high-frequency portion of the radio spectrum generally does not penetrate walls, it may be more palatable to Hollywood and the cable and D.S.L. telecommunications firms, which have been concerned about the risks of piracy posed by some wireless technologies, said Richard Doherty, a computer industry consultant at Envisioneering.
“It might appease Hollywood, but Monster Cable and other such cable companies would lose out,” he said. The use of silicon germanium is significant because it exploits standard equipment that is readily available in I.B.M. chip-making plants, according to Modest Oprysko, a manager in communication technology at I.B.M.’s Yorktown Heights research laboratories.
That means that there is potentially a relatively quick path from research to commercialisation.”This is Bluetooth on steroids,” he said, referring to the current industry standard that has been used as a wireless cable replacement. The I.B.M. researchers said that despite the fact that the millimeter wave technology would have a short range in the home, it might have significant applications as a low-cost alternative in point-to-point communications systems that are popular as data links on corporate campuses. One of the advantages of the shorter wavelength systems is that the antenna can be assembled as part of the chipset, further lowering the cost of the technology.