In one of its most pivotal rulings in home wireless networking, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has cleared the way for the HomeRF Working Group to increase the transmission speed of the Shared Wireless Access Protocol (SWAP) to 10 Mbits/s. The rule change, originally proposed by the group and its members, will significantly affect the growth of the home-networking market.
HomeRF Working Group member companies are now free to deliver a variety of consumer products that support data speeds comparable to those of corporate wireless networks. Additionally, this change will add support for audio and video streaming. It will expand voice capabilities to support up to eight cordless handsets as well.
Current products based on SWAP 1.3 from Intel, Cayman, Proxim, Compaq, and other companies will support today's popular home-networking applications. But the enhanced speeds will ensure that the HomeRF specification will continue to meet the future market needs for home, small-office, and service providers. This will let the HomeRF specification encompass a fully integrated, high-speed voice and data networking capability.
"The HomeRF Working Group commends the FCC for its insight and understanding of the marketplace, and for having the foresight to make this ruling, which will greatly benefit consumers and industry and facilitate the growth of the wireless home-networking market," says Ben Manny, chairman of the HomeRF Working Group. The FCC's decision positively impacts the hundreds of companies working to make the future of wireless home networking a reality.
Recognizing the future needs of applications with higher bandwidths, group members and other companies petitioned the FCC in September 1998. This petition requested that frequency-hopping spread-spectrum devices be permitted to increase speeds by modulating more spectrum during each hop within the 2.4-GHz industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) frequency band.
Prototypes Already In The Lab
The FCC's ruling lets the group fully leverage the frequency's capabilities, creating a seamless upgrade path to 10 Mbits/s while allowing backward compatibility for current products. The group and its members have already built lab prototypes that successfully achieve these higher data rates with little or no increase in costs, substantially improving price/performance ratios.
While previous SWAP applications remain intact, such as data and peripheral sharing and shared Internet access anywhere around the home, this ruling clears the way for innovative new applications. The HomeRF Group envisions members developing products that take advantage of more bandwidth.
"Dolby Labs is pleased to see FCC approval of HomeRF's Petition for Rule Change," explains Bob Brunner, Dolby's director of technology. "With a 10-Mbit/s bandwidth, consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of streaming all the popular downloadable Internet audio formats, including MP3 and AAC, without interrupting other network activity.
"In addition," Brunner continues, "consumers can now stream real-time Dolby Digital 5.1 multichannel audio from DVD-video/audio, satellite, cable, and advanced television broadcasts wirelessly through the home. We believe that these data rates will open up a new class of audio products, including wireless surround speakers, high-quality networked digital jukeboxes, and Internet radios."
Launched in March 1998, the group developed SWAP for a broad range of interoperable consumer devices. It's now an open industry specification that lets PCs, peripherals, cordless telephones, and other consumer items share and communicate voice and data around the home without the complication and expense associated with running new wires. SWAP-compliant products operate in the license-free 2.4-GHz band. They use frequency-hopping spread-spectrum RF technology for secure and robust wireless communications.
The group's membership includes nearly 100 companies from across the PC, consumer electronics, networking, peripherals, communications, software, retail-channel, home-control, and semiconductor industries worldwide. For more information and a list of members, go to www.homerf.org.