Why wait for the perfect chip when you can make your own? Toronto, Ontario-based ViXS Systems asked itself that question and ended up creating Matrix, an 802.11a PHY MAC chip that will work in conjunction with ViXS’s own Xcode MPEG/video network processor for streaming video wireless.
What makes Matrix unique from other 5GHz 802.11a chips from companies like 11a-leader Atheros or Intersil
, whom ViXS showed off with at the last Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, is that Matrix operates on two 802.11a channels simultaneously to maximize efficiency.
Why do you need two channels? Because consumer electronics, media centers, set-top boxes and video gateways — the very markets ViXS is targeting — will likely have multiple video terminals receiving transmissions.
Wendell Smith, director of product marketing at ViXS describes it this way: “If you have standard definition TV on the far end of the house, an 802.11a network could only support the lowest bit rate to the set, while consuming 100 percent of bandwidth. But even if the consumer has a beautiful plasma display on the wall in the den with the [wireless video] gateway, there won’t be enough bandwidth even in the same room. Having two channels available comes [means] we can optimize so that the far TV has one channel, the plasma display gets another, and if another comes on, we can determine which channel can handle the additional bandwidth.”
Why go with its own chip solution instead of working with a company like Atheros or Intersil to get better Quality of Service (QoS) for video? Smith says sometimes it makes sense to work with another supplier’s “off-the-shelf” chips, but modifications like they wanted would have been difficult and expensive. ViXS hopes that using Matrix along with other off-the-shelf 802.11a radios will keep cost down while continuing to exploit existing standards. “If we could have used off the shelf tech, we would have done that,” says Smith.
Clients receiving video from a Matrix-enabled box need only standard 802.11a inside — Matrix is only for the transmitting end.
ViXS is showing the Matrix/Xcode chip combo in action at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, letting attendees walk the show floor up to 125 feet away from the ViXS booth with a tablet PC running a streaming video.
The Xcode video networking processor began sampling with customers in September 2002. It can adjusts video MPEG formats, bit rates, and resolutions on the fly over any IP network, wired or wireless; ViXS will also be showing full-motion video over HomePlug powerline-based networks at the show with Cogency Semiconductor.
Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.