Some form of Wi-Fi is a given in just about any mobile or even stationary device, and every other kind of home network can tie into it. This year, its latest and fastest version, based on the emerging IEEE 802.11ac specification, is expected to come into phones and tablets in a big way. Broadcom, a major supplier of networking chips, said in a CES preview last month that its new 802.11ac chips for the smaller devices would come out in phones early this year. Those chips can run at about 300M bps (bits per second), several times as fast as current Wi-Fi in phones, and use less power because they can finish transmitting and get off the airwaves sooner, Broadcom says. Laptops and routers are already on the market with bigger 802.11ac radios that have the potential to deliver about 1G bps of throughput
For even higher speeds, the Wireless Gigabit Alliance is pushing WiGig, a system that taps into gobs of unlicensed, barely used spectrum up in the 60GHz range. Those frequencies don't travel too far, but WiGig is aimed at connecting to things nearby, point to point. For example, it can be used to dock a thin and light computer to a monitor and peripherals without the need for Ethernet ports and other connections. WiGig may also be used to send high-definition video streams to a TV for viewing or gaming, its backers say. Its top speed now is about 7G bps, and it may go much higher. Right before this year's show, the Wi-Fi Alliance said it would take over development and promotion of WiGig. That should help ensure the two systems work well together, though WiGig still won't be called Wi-Fi.
WiGig isn't alone at 60GHz. WirelessHD is already built in to adapters for equipment such as projectors and home theaters. It has a theoretical top speed of 28G bps, according to its biggest proponent, chip vendor Silicon Image. At CES, Silicon Image will demonstrate a WirelessHD chip for smartphones and tablets. The UltraGig 6400 mobile 60GHz WirelessHD transmitter was announced last month and is already shipping to manufacturers in sample quantities. It can send and receive video at resolutions up to 1080p with multi-channel sound, for linking a portable device with a big-screen TV, according to Silicon Image. The company also included MHL, (Mobile High-Definition Link), a system for wired high-speed connections between mobile devices and home electronics.