A host of new technologies promise to meet our evolving needs Believe it or not, 300Mb/s IEEE 802.11n routers have already been on the market for several years. What’s more, the first 802.11n routers that support three 150Mb/s data streams—that's raw throughput of 450Mb/s—have reached store shelves, too.
As we’ve already mentioned, we didn’t find the first such model to be very impressive in terms of range, and we haven’t been able to find any USB client adapters equipped with the three antennas needed to take full advantage of the technology. Let’s take a quick look at what other wireless technologies are headed our way in the near future.
Wireless USBWe once dismissed Wireless USB because it offered terrible range, but the technology has improved considerably and several manufacturers are now using it to build inexpensive video-streaming solutions. Instead of streaming video from the Internet or a media server over your network to a set-top box connected to your TV, these devices will stream video to your TV from a laptop in the same room.
You can read our review of Warpia’s PC-to-TV Display Adapter here. The recently announced Veebeam HD promises an even better experience: Warpia’s device uses a VGA output and supports a computer-oriented maximum resolution of 1440x1050. The Veebeam HD uses HDMI and promises resolution of 1080p.
Intel's WiDiIntel announced its Wireless Display (WiDi) technology at CES last January, and notebook manufacturers including Dell, Sony, Toshiba, and Asus have been slowly rolling out machines that support it. Since WiDi is incorporated into Intel’s wireless chipset, it doesn’t require a USB dongle to transmit. As with Wireless USB, however, it still requires a set-top receiver that plugs into your TV, and that means buying Netgear’s $100 Push2TV.
WiGigFuture tri-band routers will operate three wireless networks on the unlicensed 2.4-, 5-, and 60GHz frequency bands simultaneously. Initial WiGig solutions will likely cover short distances, but there’s talk of deploying reflectors and repeaters to enable the 60GHz signals—which can deliver data-transfer rates up to 7Gb/s—to cover wider areas within the home.
The WiGig spec will use the unlicensed 60GHz spectrum to transmit high-definition video and audio short distances without cables.
Wi-Fi DirectWi-Fi Direct is another initiative promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Today, the typical wireless network involves clients connected to a wireless access point (typically a router), which is connected to a wired gateway, which is in turn connected to the Internet. Most of these networks operate in infrastructure mode, with the access point acting as a central hub.
That mode works well enough when you’re dealing with a few computers sharing a common broadband connection and a printer. Throw in smartphones, media-streaming devices, digital picture frames, and empowering guests to share your network’s resources—without giving them carte blanche access to your data—and things quickly become unwieldy. Wi-Fi Direct envisions products that have embedded software access points that would enable the casual formation of an ad hoc network. This would enable your guest to establish a wireless connection between their smartphone or laptop and your printer directly, without involving your router or granting access to the rest of your network. By the same token, a digital media player could stream music and video directly to your TV or A/V receiver.
A security protocol similar to Wi-Fi Protected Setup would prevent unauthorized connections, while a protocol similar to Microsoft’s UPnP or Apple’s Bonjour would enable each device to exchange information about its capabilities. The Wi-Fi Alliance says it expects to begin certifying Wi-Fi Direct products in late 2010.