Gigaom

Can WiGig Become as Much a Household Name as Wi-Fi?


Over the last 14 years, the Wi-Fi Alliance has accomplished something truly remarkable. It turned Wi-Fi into a brand recognized the world over by the tech-savvy and tech-challenged alike. Whether you pronounce it “Wee-Fee” or “Wai-Fai,” the familiar Wi-Fi logo is known by anyone with a smartphone, laptop, or tablet to connect.

Now the Wi-Fi Alliance is trying to accomplish that feat again. It’s launching a new standardization and certification initiative around WiGig, a short-range but extremely high-speed local networking technology. The Wi-Fi Alliance merged with the Wireless Gigabit Alliance last January, and on Monday it unveiled WiGig’s official logo.

Building a brand as recognizable as Wi-Fi around WiGig won’t be an easy task, which might make you wonder why the Alliance is even bothering. Why doesn’t it just meld WiGig into the Wi-Fi universe of networking technologies?

Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing and program management director for the Alliance, says while it might seem easier just to start calling WiGig Wi-Fi, ultimately it would compromise the work the Alliance has accomplished over the past 14 years.

The beauty of Wi-Fi is that pretty much any Wi-Fi certified device is capable of connecting to any Wi-Fi certified router (there are some exceptions, but you’d have to work really hard to find them). WiGig, however, will be a separate wireless technology using different spectrum (the 60 GHz airwaves) and with different use cases from Wi-Fi.

“Not all devices will have both Wi-Fi and WiGig,” Davis-Felner says. “Many will have both—we’re hoping that will be the case.” But if the Alliance started stamping the Wi-Fi logo on devices that only supported WiGig, it would sow confusion in the market, she says.

If you create different types of incompatible Wi-Fi, the certification loses its meaning. Consumers could no longer count on one Wi-Fi device working with another. You get a situation like we have in mobile. You can’t buy a phone with the expectation it will work on another carrier, much less in another country. “It didn’t make sense to stretch the brand,” Davis-Felner says.

Because of WiGig’s 1 Gbps to 6 Gbps data rates and range limitations (it will work within a single room), it will be used largely as media transfer technology, connecting PCs to monitors and camcorders and digital video players to TVs. The Alliance is working closely with two other standards bodies, the USB Implementers Forum and the Video Electronics Standards Association, to ensure WiGig plays nice with their technologies.

But WiGig also faces competition from other wireless media networking standards, such as Wireless HD and Animon’s WHDI. The Wi-Fi Alliance has faced competing technologies before, most notably HiperLAN, the wireless local area networking (WLAN) technology Europe pitted against the IEEE’s 802.11 standards. Wi-Fi won handily, but this time Wireless HD and WHDI have an advantage. Their standards are set, and the products are already in the market.

The Alliance has said it plans to certify WiGig products in 2013, but we may not see the WiGig logo on any devices until well into 2014. From there, the Alliance faces a long marketing slog to educate consumers on what WiGig actually means.

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Meyer is a senior writer for Gigaom.

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