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Ofcom sees £4bn ultrawideband world

The communications watchdog predicts a golden future for ultrawideband - if key decisions are made swiftly and well
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

In a long-awaited report published yesterday, Ofcom said it is in favour of ultrawideband (UWB) radio technology and would prefer to see it unlicensed and with the minimum amount of regulations.

UWB is a novel transmission system that combines very high speeds with very low power over short distances. It is expected to make its commercial debut in consumer equipment such as set-top boxes, high definition TVs and portable music systems. Ofcom estimates that, if correctly regulated, UWB could provide some £4bn in value to the UK over the next 15 years.

Because UWB overlaps huge swathes of the radio spectrum it has the potential to disrupt existing users such as satellite services, radio astronomers, mobile phone users and aviation, Ofcom said. However, the report notes that in the five years that UWB has been studied with consumer products in mind, no consensus on interference or regulation has been reached. Even in the US, where UWB has been permitted for two years, interference remains more potential than actual.

The UK regulator is keen not to limit the adoption of the technology by over-regulating it but still favours stricter limitations on UWB power and frequency usage than the US standard permits. The organisation points out that it wants "to finalise its approach to UWB as quickly as possible in order to give clarity to stakeholders in both countries".

Ofcom is seeking responses from interested parties, who have until 24 March to make their issues known: the report and the consultation document can be found at the regulator's Web site.

In April, the European Commission will start work on a pan-Union harmonised UWB agreement.

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