Conclusion

Whenever two or more standards that strive to solve the same matching problem are made available, the question is always: which one will “win” the market? Such battles have been studied numerous times as in the competition among standards for cellular telephony, microcomputers, videotape formats, etc. Although there are advantages to having only one standard (like economies of scale, transparency, no cost of converting to another standard, etc.), these battles often arise because any particular standard may have different advantages depending on its involved parties [21].

In the case of standards for very high throughput (VHT) in the 60 GHz frequency band, the two serious contenders, at least for applications of high-speed file transfer and HD video and audio streaming, are WirelessHD and WiGig/IEEE 802.11ad.

The WirelessHD consortium identified a niche in the market: a multi-gigabit per second wireless communications standard optimized exclusively for the transmission of high definition video and audio. By being the first organization to publish a standard in the 60 GHz band, they were the first movers. As described by Hesser, Feilzer and de Vries [21], the first mover may have an advantage over later competing standards by having income from first adopters, good image as innovators, goodwill and brand loyalty, etc. But success is anything but certain for the first mover. A second mover could, for example, learn from the first mover’s mistakes and gain competitive advantage by offering improved product quality, closer to the customer’s preferences.

Moreover, it is my opinion that by failing to include internet access and Wi-Fi compatibility, the WirelessHD consortium dug its own grave. It could be argued at this point that it became a deal breaker for widespread adoption, both by direct and indirect users (the direct users are the implementers, the party that applies the standard, while the indirect users are primarily consumers or professional users of the product, they typically do not read the standard [21]), because there is now a very firmly set expectation by the consumers to always have internet access, and practically every user with internet access owns Wi-Fi certified devices. Why would the consumers or the manufacturers want to adopt an incompatible standard? This would certainly incur unwanted switching or protocol adaptation costs, which might outweigh the benefits offered by the standard (which it does, in my opinion).

As it is, with WiGig now absorbed by the Wi-Fi alliance and the IEEE 802.11ad standard being technically an amendment to the IEEE 802.11 standard, they already count with an incredibly strong installed base (number of users of a standard). This is a great example of the phenomenon of network externalities: the value of the new technology represented by WiGig to a potential new consumer has been greatly increased thanks to the colossal number of customers that already use Wi-Fi devices. Despite the fact that the WiHD standard is in some respects a technically superior standard (the maximum data rate of WiHD is 28 Gbps while that of WiGig is 7 Gbps), I believe WiGig is strong enough to win the market. Any technological limitations on their part will certainly be overcome in the following iterations of the standard (which are currently being worked on), and the support of the IEEE and Wi-Fi alliance granted them all the momentum needed to overshadow the WirelessHD standard. Beyond merely concentrating on facilitating HD entertainment, WiGig’s broader scope is thoroughly but briefly explained in the following video [27]:

In the presence of network externalities it is more likely that one of the competing standards will win than the coexistence of several standards, each with its own part of the market [21]. To further support my argument that WiGig is the winner of this “Standards War”, I would like to direct the reader’s attention to the recent activity of WiGig and WirelessHD. A quick look at the WirelessHD consortium’s official website (at the time of writing) gives off the impression that they have already given up. This might be my own personal opinion, but the most recent entry of the “news” section dates back to the 9th of January, 2013, and no comments were ever left in the note [28]. Despite their first mover advantage, the product listing offered in the official website displays the extremely disappointing number of 6 available products bearing the WiHD logo [29]. This is more than 5 years after the WirelessHD standard was first made available (January 2008).

On the other hand, even though the standard IEEE Std P802.11ad-2012 was formally approved as recently as October 2012, there are already several interesting commercial developments. In June 2011, it was revealed that Panasonic (a WiGig member) was the first company to develop an 802.11ad-compatible chip for mobile devices [30]; Dell has already made available the Wireless Dock D5000 for the Latitude 6430u/E6430 laptops, reasonably priced at $270 USD [31]; Qualcomm and Wilocity have teamed up to deliver the world’s first tri-band Wi-Fi chipset that combines 802.11ac and 802.11ad, and by using 60, 5 and 2.4 GHz radios, will achieve both high speeds and broad compatibility [32]; and Apple has applied for a new patent for a wireless display that would let a touchscreen detach from its laptop base through WiGig and keep its battery powered up through some form of wireless charging [33]. ABI Research is predicting that 60GHz enabled device shipments will exceed one billion units per annum by 2017 [23].

Figure 13. WiGig Commercial Developments [31] [32] [33]

Figure 13. WiGig Commercial Developments [31] [32] [33]

According to De Vries [21], the properties of a good standard are:

  1. Provides a solution for a matching problem.
  2. Fulfills the need of parties (workable and acceptable).
  3. More than one involved party.
  4. Lifetime longer than the process for creating the standard.
  5. Not in contradiction with other valid, operational standards.
  6. Backwards compatibility.
  7. Does not block a-priori future improvements/developments.
  8. Easily readable and unambiguous.
  9. Fit for repetitive, frequent application.

After the discussion maintained along all the posts of this blog, I find WiGig/IEEE 802.11ad to comply with all the 9 conditions above listed. WiGig is a good standard.

I would like to finalize this blog with an interest remark. At least 6 major companies (Broadcom, Dell Inc., Panasonic Corporation, Samsung Electronics Co., Toshiba Corporation and Intel Corporation) are very closely involved with both WirelessHD and WiGig standards, as “Promoters” of the former, and members of the Board of Directors of the latter [20] [34]. I think this speaks volumes about the initial levels of uncertainty about which standard would rule in the end. These companies did not take any chances, and perhaps the benefits of having an important role in development of the triumphant standard outweigh the disadvantages of having to invest in the development of more than one standard. 

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