Ultrawideband in 2005, but only in America

IDF: Temporarily abandoning the IEEE, Intel says that UWB will be available in products by 2005 - if you live in the United States

Intel on Wednesday pledged to remove the cables cluttering up homes as it outlined its strategy to introduce a new generation of high-speed radio networking.

By 2005, the company said, a wide range of consumer electronics devices would start to be able to communicate with each other over ultrawideband wireless, which is a very high-speed, short-range networking system. However, only the US has regulations in place that allow this, and the company could give no date for European approval.

"Our job is to kill the wires" said Pat Gelsinger, Intel's chief technical officer. He showed USB 2.0 video being carried over UWB prototype equipment, the first time this has been publicly demonstrated, connected with unmodified laptops and a camcorder. Intel predicts that UWB will take over from cables wherever digital media needs to be moved between equipment within a few metres of each other.

Ultrawideband has become increasingly controversial within the industry during the past year, with an approvals process becoming deadlocked within the IEEE. As a result, a group called the MBOA, comprising Intel and about sixty others, is developing its standard independently of the IEEE.

"This will be an open standard," said Yoram Solomon, general manager of Texas Instrument's consumer networking business unit. "We can't wait for the deadlock to be resolved. The deadlock is over simple things, the standard is complicated. We are going back to the IEEE when we've finished."

Gelsinger outlined a three-stage process for bringing UWB to the home. The radio side is being standardised by the MBOA, while an industry group called WiMedia is setting up to define how many different services -- including USB 2.0, FireWire, Internet Protocol and others -- can share the same UWB hardware, by defining the WiMedia Common Radio Platform.

Finally, WiMedia will guarantee interoperability through certification. "The WiMedia Alliance is like the WiFi Alliance," said Jim Meyer, a board member. "We'll certify interoperability and run logo programmes to help consumer confidence".

"All the standards should be in place by the end of 2004, and product will start to appear in 2005," said Gelsinger. However, he told ZDNet UK that this was only the case for the US, where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the national communications regulator, has already set down strict rules for UWB operation.

"2005 in Europe or in any other region is too optimistic for me," he said. "The FCC was very bold and very aggressive... This is the first radio technology the US has taken a leadership in in years, and I'm very excited."

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