WiGig

WiGig came up while interviewing Mano Gialusis and Pat Kannar for Dell’s Precision workstations.

Although I’ve heard the term before, until now the technology has been shadowy. That could change. Dell’s workstations are not mainstream, but the high-end wireless technology could soon be everywhere.

Gialusis and Kannar told me Dell uses WiGig as a wireless docking technology for the company’s flagship mobile workstations. So, I asked the obvious question: is that a faster version of Wi-Fi?

The answer isn’t simple. WiGig and Wi-Fi are close relatives. The Wi-Fi alliance looks after WiGig’s standards and certification.

Blazingly fast, but…

WiGig is faster than Wi-Fi. It has speeds of up to 6 Gbps. It operates at least 50 times the speed of today’s desktop wireless standard. In theory those speeds can be boosted to 25 Gbps. In practice that means moving an HD movie between devices in less than three minutes.

Hoever, there are important differences. Gialusis and Kannar told me WiGig is used for different applications. From Dell’s point of view the technology means you can walk into a room with a mobile workstation and instantly hook-up to remote screens, loud-speakers, mice, keyboards and other devices. WiGig is mainly about media transfer.

WiGig uses different spectrum to Wi-Fi, it operates at around 60 GHz. Higher frequencies mean shorter wavelengths. In plain English this means signals don’t extend as far, typically you only use it in a single room. In other words, it’s faster than Wi-Fi, but has a shorter range.

And there’s the big disappointment. Those of us who’d like to hook up fibre connections to a house full of devices won’t be able to use WiGig for the task. It’s either push conventional Wi-Fi to its limits or run cables around the rooms.

WiGig antennae twitching

Dell’s workstations have a steerable WiGig antennae, apparently that’s important. It also makes things a little more fragile.

This goes some way to explain why WiGig isn’t called Wi-Fi+ or something similar. The two standards are different. Although some equipment may have both, you can’t expect the two standards to interconnect.

Another issue is that there are competitors. At least two other wireless technologies are vying to fill the same niche. Wi-Fi has its market to itself.

Dell is early to market with WiGig. Most other hardware makers don’t expect to get devices to market until 2014.