Intel is ending production of its 60GHz 802.11ad, also known as WiGig, controllers and antennas later this year. Anandtech writes that the company has sent end-of-life notifications for the high-speed wireless parts, and it will stop making and selling them in just a few months.
802.11ad boasts higher performance—up to 4.8 gigabits per second—than 802.11ac, but its use of the 60GHz frequency, rather than the 5GHz or 2.4GHz of mainstream Wi-Fi, means that it’s limited to a very short range. It also requires line of sight between the device and the base station. Penetration through walls is essentially non-existent, so using 802.11ad as a Wi-Fi alternative would require a base station in every room.
This limits 802.11ad’s use as a networking interface, but it does have an alternative use as a cable replacement. A handful of 802.11ad docking stations have come to market, enabling a laptop to connect to a monitor and other peripherals without using wires. In this application, the short-range and line-of-sight requirement is a lesser issue—both laptop and dock will probably be adjacent on a desk—but it hasn’t had much mass-market impact. Apart from anything else, most people docking their laptop will probably want to charge it at the same time, so at least one cable is required anyway. With USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3, that one cable can deliver both power and connectivity—up to 40 gigabits per second, nearly ten times the performance of WiGig—anyway.
However, Intel isn’t getting out of the 60GHz space entirely. There continues to be interest in using 60GHz wireless technology for VR headsets, and in May the company announced a partnership with HTC to produce an 802.11ad-enabled Vive headset. This would offer a useful halfway house between fully untethered systems (where the computer is carried on your person) and the existing wired systems we see today, offering the greater performance of wired systems (since they can use full-power desktop computers and GPUs) with the freedom of movement found in systems such as Microsoft’s HoloLens or backpack-mounted laptops.
Intel isn’t the only company that’s investigating this use of 60GHz communications. A 60GHz wireless adaptor for the HTC Vive is available from TPCast, and the device adds a lot of freedom at the expense of weight and price.