Toshiba used a conference in its native Japan to unveil a new development in wireless technology. The corporation has employed a low-cost process to fashion a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) device. This technology opens the way to making powerful silicon chips that work in the millimetre waveband.

The much anticipated millimetre-wave technology enables high-speed wireless communication in the 60GHz band. This frequency is more than ten times higher than conventional wireless networks. It means that data transfers can be performed at more than one gigabit per second (1Gbps).

Such speeds offer the possibility for consumers to link high-definition video devices in the home as simply as using a Wi-Fi network today. HD camcorders, computers, HD disc players, HDTVs and other products could all be connected wirelessly.

Toshiba announced the breakthrough at the 2007 Symposia on VLSI Circuits in Kyoto, Japan on 15 June. Because of the nature of the millimetre waveband, however, distances could be limited to a few metres. Connecting devices from one room or floor to another would still have to be done with wires. It may mean, though, that the shorter-length HDMI cables for high-definition gear could become a thing of the past.

Riding the millimetre wave

Frequencies around the 60GHz band are allocated to unlicensed equipment in Japan, the US and Europe. For this reason, millimetre-wave communication is increasingly regarded as a solution for transmitting high-speed data over short distances.

Toshiba has used CMOS as an alternative to gallium arsenide in making integrated circuits. CMOS ICs are cheaper to make, stable for millimetre-wave use and more compact in size. Multiple functions, including a digital signal processor can also be formed directly on the chip. Ian Calcutt