Hi-Fi Goes Wi-Fi

It's been a long wait, but we're finally starting to see high-bandwidth IEEE 1394 digital audio connections on the back of DVD-A/SACD players (see related story), as first hinted at by Yamaha five years ago. A key ingredient for getting the beleaguered 1394 (or FireWire or iLink) format moving was the inclusion of copy-protection protocols that restrict unfettered consumer use of the digital audio content.

Next step: lose those pesky wires. The 1394 Trade Association announced last week that its Wireless Working Group (WWG) has resolved the issue of commercial entertainment content protection for devices that comply with the WWG 1394 Protocol Adaptation Layer (PAL) for 802.11, an increasingly popular wireless networking format.

The Wireless Working Group says that by appeasing both content providers and hardware manufacturers, it's detemined to "deliver IEEE 1394 into the wireless domain." The WWG's Steve Bard explains that his group's initial focus is on "developing an implementation specification for bridging 1394 PAL to IEEE 802.11. The Digital Transmission Content Protection, most commonly referred to as DTCP, is currently an approved standard for content protection in a wired 1394 environment. The WWG 1394 PAL now also facilitates the use of data protected by DTCP across 802.11."

The Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator (DTLA, also known as the "5C" group) was formed in 1998 by five technology companies—Hitachi, Intel, Matsushita, Sony, and Toshiba—to license their jointly-developed DTCP technology for "protection of video and audio content against unauthorized interception or retransmission in the digital home environment." In a statement, the 1394 Trade Association reports, "The DTLA has indicated support for the use of DTCP through a 1394 PAL over 802.11, based upon information provided by our Wireless Working Group."

James Snider, executive director of the 1394 Trade Association, adds, "The 1394 PAL extends the use of 1394 standards and protocols over 802.11, including DTCP, and underscores the Trade Association's commitment to support existing standards and protocols when developing Trade Association implementation specifications."