Why WiFi doesn't work well for TV watching - and what Toshiba can do about it

by Guy Kewney | posted on 26 August 2004

You can stream audio quite easily over your WiFi connection - but although some people have tried using WiFi for video, you do have to be tolerant of faults in the picture stream. It's OK for surveillance, but not ideal for movies.

Guy Kewney

Toshiba thinks it has got a good answer to the problem. According to a report from the Hot Chips conference, by CNet, researcher Mitsuo Saito is "is developing a version of 802.11a wireless technology that will more easily allow televisions and other non-PC devices to receive video or other complex files."

The Hot Chips show is organised on behalf of the IEEE Computer Society and this year, portable and wireless video was a big focus. Intel was due to demonstrate the PXA27X processor, for phone and PDA applications; Nvidia gave some new details of its SC10 video processor for handheld applications, while Hitachi trotted out its SH-Mobile3 application processor aimed at 3G.

According to CNet, the Toshiba chip is aimed to feed MPEG-2 decoders with packets that are never delayed more than the video standard can cope with - apparently half a microsecond is the longest. Any more, and you get those video artefacts that subscribers to cable TV will be familiar with.

Saito's system uses 802.11a, a relatively high speed wireless technology. This doesn't suffer from the problems facing 802.11g/b technology, which have to cope with the possibility of finding a 2 megabit 11b device sharing the access point, and requiring long time-outs.

Even so, it looks initially as if this will have to be a dedicated link device, with several modifications to the WiFi Alliance's approved standard.

Saito is submitting the new chip for approval to "a standards body," according to CNET

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