WiMedia, Ecma to push UWB standardization

Some stories have a happy ending. Such is the case with the 802.11n standard skirmishes which ended two weeks ago when the two competing coalitions ceased fire and began to work on reconciling their differences. Other stories end less happily, with an all-out war and real winners and losers. Such was the case in the late 1970s when home videocassette players hit the market. A war erupted between VHS and Sony's Betamax system. Beta had many advantages over VHS, but by the 1980s it had lost the war, and customers who had gambled on it had to switch to VHS, which became the standard.

The UWB situation is coming to resemble the Beta-VHS situation. The latest move was taken by the WiMedia Alliance. Earlier this week it announced that it was working with Ecma International to establish the WiMedia MB-OFDM UWB platform as the global UWB standard. Ecma, established in 1961, is a non-profit industry association of technology developers, vendors, and users. It is known for its development of DVD interchange standards, scripting languages, and other standards in information, communications technology, and consumer electronics.

WiMedia hopes that its work with Ecma will make it possible to complete the process of establishing a recognized international standard by the end of this year, which will correspond to WiMedia standard-based UWB product launches.

For more on the state of UWB standard war:
- see the WiMedia Alliance's website
- check out Ecma International's website
- read this press release

BACKGROUND: UWB sends a very low-power signal over a large portion of bandwidth. The weakness of the signal and the fact that it is sent in a brief pulse means that equipment operating in the spectrum for which the FCC has licensed UWB -- a 7.5 GHz band from 3.1 to 10.6 GHz -- is unable even to notice the UWB signal.

There are two competing UWB coalitions. One is led by Motorola-spin-off Freescale Semiconductor. Freescale's technology uses the full 7.5 GHz in one long stretch but with a filter that excludes the unlicensed 5 GHz band used by 802.11a. Freescale already has production chips and reference designs, but no products shipping yet. Chinese consumer electronic giant Haier will soon bring out a Freescale-based UWB HDTV.

The competing group is the WiMedia Alliance, which counts Intel, Kodak, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, and many other leading companies among its members. A few months ago, the WiMedia Alliance merged with the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA). It was a helpful merger as MBOA was formed to work on the PHY while WiMedia was established to work on the MAC layer. WiMedia divides UWB into several smaller bands, allowing some bands to be turned off (for example, a range in the 5 GHz to allow for 802.11a, or other swaths of spectrum to comply with regulations in other countries). OFDM is used within each band.

For an through analysis of the state of UWB:
- see Glenn Fleishman's MobilePipeline discussion

ALSO: UWB solutions developer Wisair said its UWB chipset development system had received FCC certification approval. This makes Wisair the first MBOA-based WiMedia Alliance member to receive FCC certification. Report

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