Wireless TV rivals square off in format war

Super-thin television sets like Sony's recent 3mm XEL-1 are undeniably spectacular. But their emergence means hardware makers are having to face up to another problem - customers wanting to hang them on their living room walls - that looks like sparking another format war to rival Blu-ray Vs HD DVD.

Wall-mounted TVs are nothing new, but old technology meant heavy sets, which, in turn, meant more than a little DIY at home or the expense of having a specialist company install wall fittings. The new breed of slim TVs, however, have screens that may be as thin and light as a painting, so are more obvious candidates for a hanging.

Wire-free alternatives

The problem is - as one look at the XEL-1 demonstrates - the electronics have been shifted to the base of the set, creating a large footprint that isn't going near any walls. Naturally, the solution is to add yet more technology - something firms such as Hitachi and Sharp are working on [Subscription link] through the likes of ultra wideband (UWB) and millimetre wave radio (MMW).

First off the block is likely to be a UWB Wooo television from Hitachi that is due to go on sale this month. The 3.5cm-thick screen contains only the essentials for the display - the tuner has been moved to something Hitachi calls the Wooo Station, from where UWB offers a wireless HMDI link to the screen.

Costly option

The idea is to put the base unit somewhere unobtrusive, leaving the screen sitting pretty on its own. There are still no details on pricing for the entire set, but Hitachi says the Wooo Station adds about ¥90,000 (£400) to the package and that it expects up to 15 per cent of its TV customers to go for the UWB version.

UWB can transmit multiple HD TV signals thanks to a bandwidth of up to 160 Mbit/s, whereas current-generation Wi-Fi can manage only around 5Mbit/s - far below the rate needed for high-definition video.

Bandwidth issue

As with so many things technical, however, there are alternatives that do essentially the same thing. One of these is the MMW wireless technique for connecting screens to tuners that Sharp is currently backing.

Sharp's current wireless TV pinup has a 2cm-thick screen connected to a base station on an extremely high frequency band through MMW. Although it functions in essentially the same way as UWB, MMW has a bandwidth of 5Gbit/s, which is ten times more than its rival.

Early adopters of the Hitachi technology, however, needn't fear a Blu-ray/HD DVD face off just yet, as Sharp doesn't plan on commercialising its MMW sets until 2010 at the earliest.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.