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Technologies for networking home entertainment equipment will compete for dominance over the next five years but ultimately Wi-Fi will use 802.11n to continue its early lead, according to a new study by ABI Research. The report, “Wi-Fi Home Entertainment Networks,” identifies three candidates for wireless home entertainment networking: power line networking, Wi-Fi (802.11x) and Ultra Wide Band (UWB). ABI Research believes that the real contest will be between Wi-Fi and UWB. Phil Solis, ABI Research senior analyst, points out that although the official data transmission rate of the 802.11a and 802.11g protocols is 54 Mbps, the actual throughput is only about half that, due to communications overhead required. The UWB standard will offer theoretical speeds up to 480 Mbps, says Solis. However, the first generation of UWB chipsets coming off the assembly lines in 2005 and into actual equipment in 2005–2007 will only offer 100 to 200 Mbps, and that does not take the required overhead into account. Meanwhile, the standard for the next member of the 802.11 family — 802.11n — will be ratified. The result? “Wi-Fi will continue to work its way into the home entertainment networking and will become entrenched,” says Solis. “By the time UWB comes out — or just a little later — 802.11n solutions will start to appear.” That may spell trouble for UWB, because 802.11n will offer actual throughput of 100 Mbps, after wireless overhead is accounted for — enough for multiple high-definition video streams. “In the end,” concludes Solis, “UWB will wind up being faster, and the chipsets will be cheaper. But if it is going to compete with Wi-Fi in home entertainment networking, it will probably do so in non-real-time data transfer, such as moving video from a camera or camcorder to a PC, where distance is not an issue.”
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