WiGig Overview: Potential and Drawbacks

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By Andrew Zignani | 1Q 2018 | IN-5031

Learn about the unique features of WiGig (802.11ad) and how this connectivity protocol will fare in a world destined to be dominated by Wi-Fi.

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Wi-Fi 6 and WiGig Will Have to Co-Exist

NEWS


The Wi-Fi 6E router received a CES 2022 Innovation Award, highlighting the promise of the new technology. And although there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, WiGig (802.11ad) is another connectivity option that often slips under the radar. WiGig is based on the IEEE 802.11ad standard and offers unprecedented bandwidth capacity thanks to its 60GHz frequency over mmWave transmission. Compared to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies of traditional Wi-Fi, WiGig delivers quicker transmission speeds (up to 8Gbps) for Wi-Fi connected devices and is less congested than traditional Wi-Fi frequencies. WiGig is invaluable for high-speed transmission of handheld equipment and consumer devices.

Figure 1: Comparison between the various Wi-Fi protocols (Source: Microcontroller Tips)

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WiGig in B2C and B2B 

IMPACT


On paper, WiGig appears to be a game-changer. It provides excellent coverage in crowded areas with numerous devices as it operates on a virtually untapped frequency. This technology has found traction in Virtual Reality (VR) gaming, HD media streaming, enterprise use cases like screen projecting and file transferring, etc. However, B2B growth in WiGig adoption is challenging because of its limited range, non-resilience, and lack of cost-effectiveness. The Wi-Fi Alliance says that with the use of beamforming, WiGig supports up to 10 meters (around 30 feet) of range, which is not that great. On top of that, WiGig has great difficulty penetrating through physical barriers like a wall. Because of these limitations, WiGig supported devices often need to be dialed down to Wi-Fi frequencies in order to remain operable across greater distances and in environments where there are objects that could block the signal. As it stands, a lot of Research & Development (R&D) is still needed before WiGig becomes mainstream. The consumer electronics segment is easily the major market because their network needs are inherently less demanding than enterprise.

Some of the major players in WiGig development include:

  • Intel
  • Peraso
  • Cisco
  • Panasonic
  • Qualcomm
  • Marvell Technology

One of the keys to unlocking the potential of WiGig is to strike strategic partnerships to develop top-tier products. For example, HTC and Intel joined forces to develop the WiGig-powered VIVE VR headset. Intel claims the short-range wireless connection delivers up to 4.6Gbps, which is excellent considering the relatively low price point for the adapter (US$349.99 as of June 2022). The HTC-Intel alliance perfectly sums up where the WiGig market is currently: limited, short-range scenarios. Users of a VR headset only need inter-device communication within the same room. In work or consumer environments where devices must communicate across long distances and through physical barriers, WiGig simply isn’t a suitable option.

One niche where WiGig has found traction is smart cities. Smart cities deploy numerous connected devices in close proximity to one another and rely on the fastest data transmission possible, making WiGig an attractive solution to governments and urban planners. In some cases, wireless connectivity speed can be the difference between life and death. There is also considerable interest from enterprises. Companies are investing more and more in electronic devices, in many cases, Internet of Things (IoT) devices. As a result, WiGig positions itself as a solid solution for these work environments that suddenly find bandwidth capacity handicapped.

Will WiGig Survive in a Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 World?

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It appears that the golden days of WiGig have already passed us. According to the latest forecasts from ABI Research, there will be just a little more than 2 million shipments of WiGig-enabled devices in 2026, compared to 11.7 million shipments in 2019.

Ultimately, the biggest challenge facing WiGig is the need to create a separate 60 GHz ecosystem in the consumer electronics space. If this fails to come to fruition, 60 GHz Wi-Fi may be confined to wireless VR and infrastructure applications for the foreseeable future, and this will result in significantly reduced opportunities for both 802.11ad and 802.11ay chipset shipments over the next decade.  Much of WiGig’s future will depend on the ability for industry players to create a more vibrant ecosystem of devices that can help to enable some of the promised use cases and potential for 60 GHz Wi-Fi technologies. Like many technology verticals, WiGig will also need the worldwide chip shortage to recover soon if demand will be met.

No doubt, WiGig’s superior network capabilities are very intriguing, but its limitations will be a major cause for hesitation from the market. Most everyday consumers can overlook these limitations because they will simply use WiGig for gaming, TV, movie file uploading, and other processes that can be completed in a small area. Companies offering WiGig support for their products can lean heavily into the user experience improvements in marketing materials. As Wi-Fi 6, and later Wi-Fi 7, enter the mainstream consumer market, positioning WiGig as the better alternative will be a major challenge, so brand differentiators must be established now. While marketing to the consumer electronics segment may be a no-brainer, the smart city landscape is a niche that WiGig can carve out. Marketing content must focus on educating urban planners on how WiGig can be deployed into smart city infrastructure, including successful case studies and helpful guides. On the enterprise side of things, many organizations are in the process of or are soon going to be in the process of replacing legacy infrastructure. This represents an immense opportunity for WiGig providers and WiGig-supported device vendors to acquire new long-term customers looking to replace their fiber network with a viable alternative.

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