Qualcomm to Turn Smartphones Into HDTV Sets

Qualcomm to Turn Smartphones Into HDTV Sets

Qualcomm is launching a new tri-chip that has the potential to stream video from smartphones and tablets directly to high-definition televisions.

The new AR9004TB chip, developed by recently acquired Atheros, builds on the combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 that already exists, but adds support for the 60-gigahertz wireless frequency, which is specific to high-speed video and is backed by the Wireless Gigabit Alliance. Members of the group include Cisco, Broadcom, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Panasonic and AMD.

Smartphones and tablets are growing increasingly popular for movie and television viewing, due to their ability to record and playback images using an HDMI cable streamed over traditional Wi-Fi. But as more devices get and use these features, Wi-Fi traffic will increase. Analysts predict this traffic will surpass wired by 2015, overloading networks.

The chip remedies this dilemma by diverting video traffic away from the traditional 2.4-gigahertz and 5-gigahertz bands onto its own 60-gigahertz spectrum, providing a consistently better viewing experience. In order for the chip to isolate the video transfer to a specific network, though, it needs to be installed in tablets, smartphones and televisions.

“AR9004TB will allow users to enjoy new generations of rich applications in the home and at work while also helping keep their devices and information fully synchronized,” said Amir Faintuch, senior vice president of Qualcomm Atheros’ consumer business unit.

Most televisions already have a built-in Wi-Fi connection, so an upgrade to support the 60-gigahertz isn’t overly burdensome. This, along with the possibility of boosting wireless speeds by tenfold, might be a good incentive for TV makers to get onboard. Besides, with consumers moving towards tablets and smartphones, the upgrade might be imperative to keep the television competitive.

Since consumers are increasingly preferring higher-quality HD video streaming, many companies have been working on the issue, but the downside of all this enterprise is that other smaller chip firms, like SiBeam, Amimon and Celano, who hoped their technology would win out, may be out in the cold.

For Qualcomm, it demonstrates the company is serious about playing a role in the wired home, where nearly every device and function, from the pre-heating the oven to switching on lights to watching movies, is controllable with a smartphone.

The AR9004TB, developed in conjunction with start-up Wilocity, is the industry’s first standards-compliant multi-gigabit wireless chip, and will available for sampling at industry conferences beginning this summer.

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