UWB may be smothered to death by red tape

The chair of the IEEE task group entrusted with establishing the standard for the technology warned that too many regulations may choke UWB to death. Indeed, he said that these contemplated restrictions pose more risk to the future of the technology than the impasse between the UWB camps promoting different standards for it. Bob Heile, chair of the IEEE 802.15.3a working group, said that if Europe and Asia applied more restrictions to the technology than the US FCC, the technology may be hobbled to the point where it would not perform well enough to displace WiFi.

"I believe we will see regulations in Europe that are substantially more restrictive than those applied by the FCC," he said. "Japan is likely to be even more conservative. If that happens, how good is the performance going to be?"

The regulations under discussion would limit UWB to a narrower slice of spectrum, and would reduce its speed and reach. These additional limitations will occur while WiFi is steadily improving. By 2007, 802.11n will be established with theoretical speeds of 110 to 200 Mbps. Practical speeds will more likely be in the 45 Mbps range. UWB boasts 480 Mbps at short range, but add a little ditance to the broadcast and regulations limiting spectrum use and UWB will be slowed down to near-802.11n speeds. The recent announcement of a UWB-Bluetooth collaboration was hailed as a boon to the two technologies, but Heile is skeptical of the immdeidtae value to UWB.

Not all UWB vendors accept Heile's alarmist view of the possible Japanese and European restrictions. Bruce Watkins, CEO of Pulse-Link -- which says its technology would deliver speeds higher than 480 Mbps -- said that, "If they cut out the lower frequencies, I can move higher. I can get the same throughput at 8GHz as I can at 4GHz." He then added, "There's nothing about 802.11n that bothers my business model."

For more on possible additional restrictions on UWB:
- see Peter Judge's Techworld discussion

PLUS: People continue to talk about the impasse between the two UWB camps and their proposals for the technology -- the OFDM-based version proposed by the WiMedia Alliance, and the DS versions put forth by the UWB Forum. Less known is the Continuous Wave UWB proposed by Pulse-Link. Continuous Wave UWB uses no analog mixers or local oscillators, resulting in a less complex implementation. It uses variable spreading codes which can trade data-rate for range, and its spectral characteristics allow flexibility to satisfy different regulatory constraints. Release

ALSO: Worried about the ramifications for UWB of regulations narrowing its allowed spectrum? Cognitive radio and RF spectrum multi-purposing are poinited to as allowing for increased spectral efficiency. Analysis

FINALLY: UWB-equipped Mercedes that cannot crash are almost here. Report

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