The industry body behind Bluetooth is to adopt the WiMedia Ultrawideband (UWB) technology for the next generation of its standard. This will link handsets, mobile media players and other devices together at speeds hundreds of times faster than the current standard over distances of around 10m, handling streaming video and audio as well as standard file transfers.
WiMedia is also the UWB system behind Wireless USB. It was developed by a consortium of companies including Intel, Texas Instruments, HP and Nokia. The first Bluetooth products with UWB are due to appear near the end of 2007 with mass production in 2008, according to the Bluetooth SIG.
UWB is the first high-speed wireless data system designed to use frequencies already allocated to other users. Because it uses an extremely wide bandwidth and very low powers, say UWB advocates, the amount of interference on any particular frequency is negligible. Existing band users such as mobile phone operators and satellite service providers disagree, although tests have shown no practical problems for plausible usage models.
So far UWB is only legal in the United States, where the Federal Communications Commission has approved a set of conditions — called a mask — which define how much power it can radiate on which bands. In the UK, Ofcom has proposed a more restrictive mask and is working with international regulators to set a standard it feels will reduce the chances of problems with existing band users.
"The Bluetooth UWB proposals will probably fit in with the legislative timescale," an Ofcom spokesperson told ZDNet UK. "Europe, the UK and the USA are working closely with CEPT [the European communications regulator]. The EU will most likely pass legislation towards the end of this year with the UK complying shortly afterwards." He confirmed that any UWB products on the market before this point would be illegal to use but legal to own.