Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

Summary: Sure, Intel's Thunderbolt with 10Gbps speeds and protocols that support both data transfer and displays sounds great, but why worry with wires connections at all with Gigabit Wi-Fi on its way?

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I think Intel's Thunderbolt technology with its 10Gbps (Gigabit per second) speeds and support for both for data transfer and displays sounds wonderful. And, yes, I like the idea of cutting down the number of wires coming out of my entertainment center and computers with Thunderbolt. But, really wouldn't you rather have no wires at all? That's what a quartet of Wi-Fi technologies are promising.

None of these technologies are quite ready for prime-time, but then, neither is Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt uses the DisplayPort and PCI-Express data protocols over two data transmission channels, and, in theory, can hit up to 10Gbps over copper. That's twice as fast as USB 3.0. Eventually, optical connections are supposed to bring that up to 100Gbps in burst mode. Even the fastest commercial SATA drives can only deliver 6Gbps.

So, while Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 are all fine in their place, shouldn't we really be looking to technologies like 802.11ac, 802.11ad, Wireless Gigabit aka WiGig, and Wi-Fi Direct? No, they're not as fast, but they can everything that Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 can do without any wires.

Wi-Fi Direct, which works on the same 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum ranges used by your current Wi-Fi network, can only deliver up to 250Mbps, but for sending files to a buddy or to a printer that may be all you need. Apple seems to think so. Experts like Glenn Fleishman think that Apple's next version of Mac OS, Lion, includes Wi-Fi Direct under the name AirDrop. That's at least one wire, to my printer, gone.

Moving on 802.11ac, the next generation of Wi-Fi, will give you devices that can handle 1Gbps speed in the 5Ghz range. Alas, you won't see these until the end of 2012.

You may very well see the even faster, but far more shortly ranged, WiGig/802.11ad devices before then. This technology will be able to reach up to 7Gbps but at range of only a few meters. But, isn't that the same range as a Thunderbolt or USB? Why yes, yes it is.

If you move your device out of range, no problem. WiGig chipsets will automatically downshift to 802.11n. Like Thunderbolt, WiGig also supports multiple protocols such as HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) and DisplayPort.

Sure, it's no 10Gbps, but it's more than fast enough for say streaming HD video from a media server to multiple HDTVs. What more do you want? I quite like the idea of having a flat-screen TV on the wall without any wires showing or expensive behind the wall wiring. I'd also like to be able to move about my office without entangling myself with the dozens of wires hooking up my PCs and servers to the wiring closet.

All-in-all, Thunderbolt does sound good, but the rise of Gigabit and faster Wi-Fi networking and direct device to device wireless connections sounds even better.

Wires? We don't need no stinking wires!

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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40 comments
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  • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

    I really hope that manufacturers do explore this technology. For reasons you already listed this would be really nice to have.
    Loverock Davidson
    • It is not Intels', but collaboration between Intel and Apple

      @Loverock Davidson: among other engineering assistance, Apple provided physical outlet it earlier designed from "mini Display Port".

      Without Apple this thing would not fly off, because Intel by itself would just settle for USB 3.0. It is good, but not good enough for Apple.

      <b>As to wires thing, scientists in Europe recently concluded five-year long research on health of trees near by Wi-Fi hotspots, and conclusions are really bad.</b>

      I mean there is no way to want a 24/7 microwaving in your house if it could be avoidable with wires.

      (However, in case of iPad, avoid wireless is impossible, because otherwise you loose all of the freedom this device grants.)
      DDERSSS
      • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

        @denisrs <br><br>With all due respect, those studies in Europe are being ridiculed because they didn't search for other reasons why the trees were having problems.

        The energy coming from a router is also VERY LOW ENERGY, meaning that it is nothing like being near a microwave at all.
        Lerianis10
      • There is nothing to ridicule in that reseach: they tracked five groups of..

        @Lerianis10: ... trees in <b>different</b> places -- with few among them being near Wi-Fi transmitters, and few being radio-free.

        Since in all five years progress/regress was perfectly consistent with the fact where Wi-Fi transmitters were set and were they were not, there is no way to doubt the results -- as of now.

        Also, the damage that trees have got was quite specific and not similar to any known epidemic tree disease. And, since these trees are apart, it is not quite possible for them to "coincidentally" became ill of some previously unknown disease -- only when and where Wi-Fi transmitters were installed.

        It should be taken into consideration that Wi-Fi maximum range is 100 meters, and since these transmitters were "public hot spot", they had maximum possible power for that standard. Home Wi-Fi modems are usually weaker than 100 metres.
        DDERSSS
      • Actually apple only glommed on to this because the market spoke and killed

        off firewire. usb3 is the end of it. Intel already had light peak done. apple wants people to think theyre smart so they went to intel and begged for this. And then in a fit of ultra lame short sightedness they hacked it on display port. Intel mocks them while tolerating them as a ship vehicle. I have seen the nics, the optical ones, not copper. Intel doesnt need apple for anything. What Intel needs is to get this on to tvs...
        Johnny Vegas
      • @Johnny Vegas

        Except that when you go into any pro audio or video production studio, the connector of choice is currently 1394. USB just doesn't do a good enough job with timing, and being that production booths need as much bandwidth as possible when it comes to video, USB 3 or eSATA won't be as flexible as thunderbolt/light peak.

        Of course, when your $500 HP finally gets this tech in 4 years, you'll wonder how you lived without it.
        nix_hed
  • What about the lengthy approval process

    if i remember correctly 802.11n took what 2 years or more to ratify??? so we then had pre-n stuff. I hope this is not going to face the same issues before its on the shelves.
    sameer.alam@...
    • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

      @sameer.alam@... More like five years. That was a special case. It was a long industry war disguised as a standardization process. For more than you could want to know about that see my "short" version of the tale:

      http://practical-tech.com/network/802-11n-fast-wi-fis-long-tortuous-road-to-standardization/2351/

      In these cases though everyone who matters is already on board. There are some competitor technologies to WiGig, but they're one company specifications & I don't see them getting broad traction.

      Steven
      sjvn@...
  • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

    Yeah, but what about sharing that bandwidth. With TB you get that speed per controller. With WiFi you have to share that bandwidth and in some cases there will be latency issues. I suspect that CPU loading is highly dependent on the WiFi adapter you use. This technology is designed to off-load the CPU. Secondly for portable devices I suspect that there is a significant power savings with a physical connection vs WiFi.

    And, you can't power devices (well, any significant power) with WiFi
    DevGuy_z
    • Horses for courses

      All technologies have their pros and cons. Wireless is not a substitute for wired in all applications, it complements it.
      Richard Flude
    • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

      @DevGuy_z That will be a problem with 802.11ac, which lives in the 5GHz range and possible with Wi-Fi, which piggy-backs on the existing 802.11g/n technologies. But, 802/11ad/WiGig lives at 60GHz, has very short range, and is directional. In short, the technology that's the most direct replacement for Thunderbolt/USB 3 won't have any trouble.

      The real problem with this stuff, weirdly enough, is CPU speed that can keep up with the encryption demands if you want to use it securely, but that's a sgtory for another day.

      Steven
      sjvn@...
  • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

    That's nice, but as you said, none of the ones you listed are available yet! And the dates you gave are estimates; nobody actually knows when (or if) they will be available. Future technology always sounds better than what we've currently got.
    And what about bandwidth? Frankly, I have trouble with my 802.11n connection sometimes because, according to my Windows Networking center, there are over 25 wireless routers that it can see in the vicinity. All are using 2.4GHz or 5GHz (which doesn't give as strong a signal at a distance as 2.4, at least in my building). It's crowded out there and adding more wireless devices to the mix won't help unless they move into new frequencies.
    Unusual1
    • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

      @Unusual1 Unless you're using the next generation of Macs, also due out RSN, you'll be using Thunderbolt either anytime soon. The PC OEMs are really, really pleased about that let me tell you!

      Steven
      sjvn@...
  • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

    So basically you're asking, if we ignore the advantages of Thunderbolt, what are the advantages of Thunderbolt?
    mschmitt
  • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

    Interesting... Are we talking WiFi "backbones"? Obviously not for big-time data centers, but for the small business server rooms or even comm closets?
    Real World
  • Wi-Fi?

    You must be joking? Ever heard of dropped connections/signals. Happens a lot with Wi-Fi in case you have been living under a rock. Besides, wireless will never touch wired connection speeds....EVER!
    james347
    • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

      @james347
      I agree, the real speed for wireless networks is often 1/10 of the advertised speed. wifi is not a panaceea!
      It will be relegated to low security and low speed home usage.
      Linux Geek
    • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

      @james347 ... agreed! anything wireless should never, ever, EVER, in a kajillion, kamillion, kabillion years be released the the general public - I spend more time explaining to customers why their wireless internet goes down everytime they pick up their cordless phone (yes, I've installed a Dual-Bank Wireless N Router, but try to explain to a Real estate rep why they need to buy a new network card), than it would take to wire the entire building.

      I can just see what would happen with data loss, and malfunctioning devices ...

      Wireless = Rosanne Barr
      Wired = Katherine Zeta Jones

      Which would you rather be on?

      (I know, kinda sexist, sorry about that, but you get the point.

      Ludo
      Ludovit
  • RE: Wires? We don't need no stinking Wires! Gigabit Wi-Fi

    Wireless is nice for mobile clients but aside from that I'll deal with the wiring in exchange for stable connections and faster speeds (my guess is gigabit wi-fi will arrive around the same time as home 10Gbit switches.)
    cdnjay@...
  • Wireless is great and all, but then you have to

    be concerned about OTA data channels running into other data channels. Much of the time, I have issues with my Wireless at home, because I live in such a densely populated area, with WAP's stomping on each other all the time. I have a monthly routine of sniffing out the traffic trying to be sure I am on an open channel.

    Personally I would prefer having my place wired up, and have a WAP for my laptop, and wireless devices, and leave my entertainment area connected via copper or glass.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh