WiGig, also known as 802.11ad, operates in the 60GHz spectrum instead of the 2.4GHz or 5GHz spectrum typically used by most Wi-Fi standards. This technology provides low latency, multi-gigabit data transmission. The standard introduced many prominent features including narrow beam forming technology which is a method of steering the transmission signals to the direction of the receiving device to minimize interference. WiGig is mainly designed for applications requiring ultra-high-definition (4K) video streaming, virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR), mobile gaming and fixed wireless mesh backhaul.
Despite receiving Wi-Fi certification over 2 years ago, there are not many WiGig enabled devices available today. So far, there is only a single WiGig enabled smartphone in the market and a couple of home routers launched by consumer-grade Wi-Fi router manufacturers such as Netgear and TP-Link. Though WiGig offers many advantages, there are downsides to the standard that limits wider adoption. Due to the high frequency spectrum that the standard operates in, signals are unable to penetrate through solid obstructions such as walls, furniture or glass. Furthermore, WiGig can only operate within a radius of 30 feet and with a clear line of sight between devices. The latter disadvantage making the spectrum less efficient especially for home users. There are only a handful of chipset vendors producing WiGig chipsets globally including Peraso, Blu Wireless, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, Lattice, Nitero, Tensorcom.
According to IHS Markit, while 2 billion overall Wi-Fi enabled devices shipped in the year 2018, only 295,000 units were WiGig enabled devices.
Upgrade to 802.11ay
In October 2018, Qualcomm announced the launch of 802.11ay standard, an upgraded version of the 802.11ad standard. 802.11ay is backward compatible and is designed to boost transmission speed up to 20-30Gbps and a range of 33 – 100 feet between devices. Qualcomm released three 802.11ay chipsets mainly targeting the new standard and optimized for fixed wireless access points and mobile applications.
With the upgraded standard, Qualcomm promoted new capabilities of the 60GHz Wi-Fi including Wi-Fi sensing applications like proximity & presence detection, gesture recognitions, room mapping with precise location and facial feature detection.
Recently announced news
In February 2019, the following WiGig technology related news were released:
- Facebook’s high-speed wireless internet Terragraph is being tested in Penang -making Malaysia the first country in Asia to provide fixed wireless access using WiGig technology.
- Peraso, a Canadian based WiGig chipset manufacturer raises USD42 million in the latest round of financing to ramp-up its WiGig products.
WiGig was unable to make its mark despite being in the market for over 2 years. The standard was heavily relying on the success of consumer applications such as Ultra HD video streaming and VR/AR applications. These applications might still drive the adoption of WiGig in the future, however WiGig might be challenged by Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard in this space. Like WiGig, Wi-Fi 6 offers a multi-gigabit transmission rate and low latency, but it also offers wider coverage area. With the ratification of Wi-Fi 6 standard scheduled for late 2019, WiGig might be facing tremendous challenge to become the go-to Wi-Fi standard in the home or consumer space.
With the introduction of 802.11ay technology, there are a few applications utilizing WiGig motion sensing ability to detect movement such as security cameras and monitoring danger zones around industrial robots. However, these applications are unlikely to drive wider adoption of WiGig technology.
In our opinion, WiGig has a higher chance of mass market adoption if it becom
es the defacto standard for fixed wireless access and mmWave backhaul connection. Qualcomm partnered with Facebook in the Terragraph project, providing internet connectivity in dense urban areas using 60GHz nodes (WiGig chipsets) installed as access points. The Terragraph system was first tested in Hungary and recently it is being tested in Penang, Malaysia. As the use case expands to other countries and implementation begins, there are higher chances for WiGig to meet an upside forecast in the coming years.