Newly uncovered approvals from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have this week confirmed that Shimano is adding wireless technology to its line up, and the timing suggests it pertains to new Dura-Ace.
In documents uncovered by CyclingTips, the FCC confirms Shimano's use of a wireless module and a rear derailleur with radio transmitter and receiver, as highlighted in patents uncovered late last year.
The documents, found at FCCID.io, confirm the two related devices include Bluetooth LE and ANT+ wireless technology, and most notably, both feature a third radio frequency entitled 'SHIMANO ORIGINAL' at 2,478 MHz, suggesting the two units will be able to communicate via a closed - or private - wireless network, similar to how SRAM's eTap works to prevent hacking and interference.
The two documents also include a 'request for short-term confidentiality', effectively holding the finer details in confidence until 180 days from the date of the Grant of Equipment Authorisation. This authorisation came on the 26th January, meaning it expires on Sunday 25th July. That's not to say this will be a launch date, but we can be confident we'll know more by then.
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What do we know?
Unsurprisingly at this stage, Shimano hasn't released anything official, but there is plenty of evidence to back up rumours and speculation.
The information included in the FCC documents is evidence to support suggestions shown in November's patents. Those patents showed wireless transmitters and receivers being added to the shifters and both derailleurs, and while there is not currently any FCC certification pertaining to a front derailleur, the confirmation of a wireless module and wireless rear mech both operating on an original closed wireless network suggests Shimano is indeed moving to wireless shifting.
Rumours are rife to suggest that new Dura-Ace will actually be semi-wireless with a wire connecting the front and rear derailleurs - similar to how FSA's WE electric groupset works. With an FCC approval for a front derailleur notable by its absence, it has been speculated that the rear derailleur will house the brains to operate the front derailleur. However, the inclusion of radio receivers in the front derailleur on those patents do throw shade onto this argument.
The earlier patents also all-but-confirmed new Dura-Ace would be 12-speed, with patent drawings showing a 12-speed cassette. It seems almost incomprehensible that Shimano would avoid this step, given both SRAM and Campagnolo are at 12-speed already (13-speed with Campagnolo Ekar), and XTR, XT, SLX and even Deore are 12-speed compatible.
The latest documents also suggest a new battery will accompany the new wireless rear derailleur. Rear derailleur testing was performed in conjunction with a battery, given part number BT-DN300. The latest iteration of Di2 battery is BT-DN110. It's a safe assumption that with three wireless frequencies, the new derailleur will be more battery-intensive.
While the available evidence all points towards wireless shifting, it's worth noting that the patents showed that Di2 cable ports remained present on the shifters. This could offer weight to the rumour that both shifters would be connected by a cable, but perhaps more likely is the ability to plug in satellite (sprint) shifters, and perhaps even offer cross-compatibility with Shimano GRX, XT or XTR, or backwards compatibility with current Dura-Ace.
When will it launch?
Shimano has long been counting down to its 100th anniversary on a dedicated anniversary page on Shimano's website. The common assumption is that this date of 23 March will be marked by the launch of new Dura-Ace, but there's no evidence to back up this claim.
Nonetheless, it is definitely worth putting the date in your diary because even if not new Dura-Ace, you can be assured that Shimano will be doing something of note on its Centennial.
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