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RealTime IT News

Radiospire Unwires TVs

You’ve paid for the flat screen, the DVD player and the upscale gaming system. The visuals are great -- but the cables definitely detract, cluttering the landscape as they snake across the floor.

What’s the best remedy for unsightly wires? Wireless technology, of course.

That’s the logic driving Radiospire, whose UniCast TX is due out in the third quarter of this year. As consumers continue to build up their multimedia entertainment lifestyles, “there is tremendous interest in this solution,” says Tan Rao, vice president of product strategy and a Radiospire founder.

Radiospire is not alone is trying to solve the cable conundrum. Companies including SiBeam, Tzero, Amimon and Ruckus all are vying for a place in the market.

Rao says UniCast TX brings together a combination of features not found elsewhere.

First and foremost, the Radiospire product delivers a full 1.6 gigabits per second link, compared to Wi-Fi’s 50 megabits per second. At these speeds, Rao says, Radiospire avoids the need for data compression and virtually eliminates the interference common to compressed signal.

Proprietary parts make the high speeds possible -- Radiospire has developed its own data converter and a proprietary radio: this isn't ultrawideband (UWB). However, while the parts may be proprietary, the connections are all standardized. UniCast TX plugs into a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) socket , and the system also supports S-Video and DVI .

Where other solutions may depend on IPTV for their functionality, “we are piggybacking off of a dominant connectivity standard, so we are not tied to anybody,” Rao says. “Whatever the standard interfaces are that you see on the back of your television or the back of your DVD player, we support them.”

When Radiospire set out to build its solution, the company had several benchmarks in mind. The solution had to be small (it is) – and it had to deliver picture quality, hence the high bandwidth.

They wanted to deliver a low price point, and expect to launch Unicast TX in the $300 to $400 range. They hope to bring the price down further in the near future by integrating components and reducing the number of chips needed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they wanted to deliver a product that was absolutely easy to use.

“When you buy a Wi-Fi router and you take it out of the box, there is a fairly lengthy configuration process -- it has gotten better, but it still can be pretty cumbersome,” Rao says. “Our solution is just out-of-the-box plug-and-play. There is no configuration. All the technology is built in, so as soon as you plug the units in, they recognize each other and they connect.”

In the same way, Radiospire uses an omni-directional antenna to save users the hassle of orienting their signals.

Rao sees a significant audience for wireless home media connectivity. He points out that Americans are buying more than $40 million a year worth of HDMI-enabled equipment. He assumes 10% to 20% of those people want to ditch their cables in favor of a wireless solution, “and if you look at those numbers, you really begin to see the market potential.”

Consumers may not flock to wireless home media solutions right away. It’s a new idea, after all, and as with any such technology, consumer awareness will have to precede demand. While Radiospire waits for that to happen, the company will be looking to forge alliances with entertainment equipment manufacturers in an effort to get UniCast TX built into the manufacturers’ offerings.

While the company has no partnerships announced as of yet, “I think you will see our technology embedded into a wide variety of technologies” in the not-too-distant future, Rao says.

Looking ahead, Rao says, Radiospire could eventually adapt its solution to encompass whole-house entertainment distribution, using wireless connectivity to make content available anywhere in the home. With TV, DVD, game boxes and even Apple TV-like set-top boxes proliferating throughout the home, “ultimately, consumers are going to want to get all those different pieces of equipment connected to any display at any time,” he says.