Wireless Speaks Volumes In Communications/Networking

Jan. 12, 2006
Wireless will lead the way in driving growth in the commuications and networking markets.

If you're talking communications and networking, you're likely talking wireless. Cell phones represent one of the bestselling consumer products of all time. Meanwhile, short-range wireless technologies are penetrating every application. Wi-Fi, WiMAX, Bluetooth, ZigBee, RFID, and other wireless methods are enjoying unprecedented growth as new chips, products, and applications arrive daily.

The wired side can't be left out of the mix, though, as the industry presses forward with both copper and fiber 10-Gbit/s systems. On top of that, growth has returned to the beleaguered fiber-optic industry. It's been triggered by the unrelenting quest for greater speed in local-area networks, wide-area networks, and metro-area networks, as well as the new passive optical network systems.

ON THE AIR Thanks to wireless services, entertainment options continue to expand. Many consumers already have satellite TV, but few have adopted the more advanced wireless highdefinition television (HDTV).

Congress recently mandated a full switch over from the current analog TV to digital TV by Feb. 17, 2009. Couple that with falling prices, and you'll see many consumers opt for a new HDTV set. Those who don't will require a converter box to translate the overtheair digital signal into an analog format suitable for display on their legacy TV sets. A TV boom is on the way, one way or another.

Now in their third year, there's been healthy growth for Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Radio. A wider variety of radios is now available, including home receivers and portable units, as well as automotive radios. While many radio fans still balk at the monthly fee, others find that the variety of programming is worth the price, not to mention the high audio quality and digital info features.

HD Radio, still in its infancy, adds digital signals to the existing analog radio signals in both the AM and FM bands. It provides higher-quality sound plus less noise and fading. Over 500 stations now transmit HD Radio, and over 2800 are currently converting to it, but there are few takers to this point. The main problem seems to be an unaware consumer base and the lack of affordable receivers. Signals are free, just like other AM and FM radio, but the special receiver is required.

Another choice comes by way of Motorola's iRadio. Priced at about $7 a month, users can download a wide range of customized music and talk radio programming via their cell phone. New iRadio phones can store up to 10 hours of music or other programming customized by the user. The programming can be transferred to a PC, car radio, home stereo, or other source via a USB port or a Bluetooth wireless link.

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