Ultrawideband tribes square up for standards fight

Wireless networking capable of high resolution video and near-gigabit speeds is on the cards, but the standards fight is intensifying
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

The next generation of ultra-fast wireless networking is taking shape, but not without a fight.

Texas Instruments, one of the leading chipmakers with relevant expertise, has joined the Intel-led Multiband Consortium, which now calls itself the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA). MBOA advocates the splitting of the recently authorised ultrawideband (UWB) radio spectrum into three or seven bands.

This puts it in direct confrontation with Motorola and XtremeSpectrum, Inc, the other major grouping, who propose a continuous spectrum. The competing ideas will be considered by the 802.15.3a working group, which has until August 2004 to define the physical aspects of high speed personal wireless networking. This will connect together consumer electronics and computers at full speed without cabling, with a special focus on imaging and multimedia.

Both groups say that their solution will be flexible enough to cope with full-speed operation, approaching half a gigabit per second, while obeying American rules about spectral use. UWB is unique in that it overlays existing services, reusing spectrum already allocated to other users. Because of this, it must operate under extremely stringent limits -- in fact, a UWB transmitter must radiate no more power than other non-transmitting electronic equipment does through normal signal leakage.

MBOA says that its solution will be more scaleable and will be more resistant to drop-outs and other temporary interruptions -- important for streamed video and audio -- whereas XtremeSpectrum says it already has suitable silicon and that it would be more able to meet speed and spectral use requirements simultaneously.

When complete, the standard aims to run at 110 megabits per second (Mbps) over ten metres and 480Mbps over one metre. It should require very little battery power, and will easily form piconets between small groups of equipment. It is envisioned that this will have the potential to replace most forms of cabling between units in domestic use.

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