Ofcom seeks comments on changes to UWB regulations

The UK's Ofcom is seeking comments on a proposal to change regulations around license-exempt ultra-wideband (UWB) devices intended to reduce the regulatory burden on stakeholders and allow them to consult on one set of regulations rather than three.

Specifically, the proposed regulations will permit the use of UWB equipment on aircraft; allow the use of UWB equipment in Location Tracking System Type 1; enable enhanced transmit power in some frequency bands; and relax the limits for the use of material sensing devices used to detect and take images of objects in walls, such as pipes and wires.

The Ofcom proposal says UWB is a generic term for technologies typically characterized by the emission of very low power radiation spread over a very large radio bandwidth. That differs from other wireless systems, which use spectrum in discrete narrow frequency bands.

UWB also can transfer large amounts of data wirelessly over short distances, typically less than 10 meters. By using mitigation techniques, multiple pieces of UWB equipment can operate in the same area.

UWB has been around for years and more rivals have come onto the scene but it might see new life in the Internet of Things (IoT) and indoor location implementations. DecaWave, a startup from Dublin, Ireland, touts ScenSor, a chip that can be embedded in a variety of devices with indoor positioning accuracy within 10 centimeters.

In fact, DecaWave Marketing Manager Mickael Viot argues that UWB will be a big part of the IoT in 2015. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both inherently limited in how accurately they can track distance and location, and they can only measure distance and location to within 3-5 meters of accuracy, he writes in this TMCNet commentary. That means that any location measurement based on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is likely to be off by 3-5 meters. "They (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) also suffer from reflected radio waves and multi-path artifacts, which can distort both radio signals and location measurements," he said.

A key attribute of UWB devices is they can communicate in a mesh network configuration, in which each device can talk with many other devices, he added.

For its part, Ofcom envisions UWB use cases that include wireless multi-media applications, such as streaming videos and connecting cameras to TVs, as well as radar and detection devices that can be used to sense objects behind walls.

Ofcom's proposal says the UK's regulations will implement a European Commission decision on UWB devices that harmonizes the technical parameters for equipment across all European member states. Comments on the proposed regulations are due by Jan. 20, 2015.

For more:
- see the Ofcom notice (PDF)
- see this Southgate post

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UWB: Back from the dead, bound for IoT location-based services
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