The Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA) LLC, which was founded by Summit Wireless Technologies, announced two additional global television companies/brands have joined its alliance, making for a total of six TV brands in a field of more than 60 members overall.

The new television companies/brands include: Taiwan-based Compal, which currently manufactures and ships to North America TVs under license to the Toshiba brand, and Fengmi, a China-based developer of laser projection TV systems and a Xiaomi Technology ecosystem company. Together, they join established TV brand members LG Electronics, Foxconn, TCL, and Bang & Olufsen in adding WiSA Certification status for audiophile-grade wireless hi-definition, multi-channel audio products.

“Given the support of six leading global TV brands, and with millions of WiSA Ready systems coming to market this year, the industry continues to embrace the technology standards we’re championing,” stated Tony Ostrom, WiSA president in announcing the additions. “Additionally, later this year, we anticipate the launch of 8K TVs, which will be compatible with a number of WiSA USB Transmitters and all WiSA Certified speakers from WiSA members. We’re excited by the momentum and forthcoming milestones of the second half of the year.”

All WiSA Certified and WiSA Ready components are designed to provide both convenience and an audiophile-level experience while working together seamlessly. The system allows wireless, multi-channel audio connectivity for immersive home theater sound from movies, video, music, sports, and gaming/esports, among other sources. The WiSA standard supports 5.1- and 7.1-channel wirelessly connected speaker setups and limits latency to 2.6ms with audio-to-video synchronization support, which is a necessary requirement for use with games and movies.

The WiSA Ready Certification program was established to help consumers easily identify WiSA-compatible entertainment sources including TVs, gaming systems or computers. The system utilizes connections between a WiSA-enabled transmitter and standard-certified speakers made by various WiSA-member brands.

Although on the surface the new memberships seem simple enough, the handling of the brands for television marketing in North America is still somewhat fuzzy for the remainder of the year and beyond.

This is because newly announced member Compal continues to hold the license on the Toshiba brand for television marketing in the United States, although China-based television manufacturer Hisense acquired the global TV rights and assets from Toshiba of Japan in 2017. Hisense will take over 100% of the rights to the Toshiba television brand for manufacturing and marketing in North America in 2022.

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Currently, Compal has been working in association with U.S.-based big box retailer Best Buy on product development and marketing strategies for Toshiba-branded televisions based on Amazon’s Fire TV operating system.

Unclear is whether the WiSA-agreement with Compal will continue for Toshiba-branded sets made and marketed by Hisense, when the Toshiba-brand licensing rights are fully assumed by the Chinese manufacturer.

Interestingly, Hisense currently holds the marketing rights to the Sharp television brand for North America, under a grandfathered brand-licensing agreement with the former management of the Sharp Corp. of Japan, which has since fallen into the control of Taiwan-based Foxconn, a WiSA member. Hisense has reportedly agreed to partially relinquish the North American Sharp TV brand rights to Sharp Corp./Foxconn this fall, with Best Buy exclusive Sharp TV models still being controlled by Hisense in the intervening time period. Then on Jan. 1, 2020, Sharp Corp./Foxconn regains 100% of the TV brand license to the Sharp trademark.

As far as WiSA products are concerned, certain Sharp-brand WiSA-certified televisions for North America will be made and sold through the Sharp/Foxconn operation once the Sharp brand rights are back in its control, unless or until Hisense joins the WiSA Certified program. No word on that as yet.

Meanwhile, China-based consumer electronics manufacturer Xiaomi became the No. 1-ranked TV brand for unit shipment market share in its domestic China during the first quarter of 2019, according to IHS Markit data. The brand currently doesn’t ship any Xiaomi-branded flat-panel televisions to the United States, but last year it showed a short-throw laser projector that it was planning to make available here.

The membership of Xiaomi-owned Fengmi to the WiSA Certification group seems to indicate some future interest in adding WiSA wireless speaker connectivity to forthcoming laser projectors that could be made available in this country. Stay tuned.

More information on the WiSA association can be found here.

By Greg Tarr

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