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ABI Says Lack of Standards Could Hurt UWB

The ultrawideband (UWB) community must come together to define a standard for the technology in order for it to thrive, according to a release issued this week from Allied Business Intelligence.

Paul Marcik, an analyst at the Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based research firm, said that the stage is set for a long fight between wireless carriers and Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment makers, and UWB supporters. He pointed out that these companies together wield considerable money and influence, and could make things even more difficult for the nascent UWB market.

The FCC in February approved the sale of UWB products in the United States, but fears of interference with existing radio transmissions prompted the agency to set conservative emissions limits. Last week the FCC issued a release indicating that emissions from such common household electrical items as a laptop or hairdryer were higher than the limits established for UWB devices, but communications companies still are not satisfied.

More than 900 companies have already filed petitions with the FCC expressing concerns about the technology's use, and it won't end there, said Marcik. "I don't think the companies that are petitioning against this will stop. Until a standard is set where all the communications segments are satisfied, this technology will have problems," he said.

Both sides need to form a committee to address the issues and devise a standard that everyone can live with, Marcik said. He suggested that the FCC might need to step in to bring together everyone involved.

Several prominent UWB players, including Time Domain and Xtreme Spectrum, have joined the WiMedia Alliance, which will promote the IEEE 802.15.3 standard. That's a start, said Marcik, but WiMedia only deals with the consumer electronics and networking capabilities of UWB.

Marcik figures the standards process will take about two years. Meanwhile, the first UWB products are expected to appear on the market by the end of 2003 or early 2004.

By then, Marcik said, "they can at least get a framework done."