According to a new report from the research firm Baskerville, the future of ultrawideband technology depends significantly on how the wireless industry in general responds to it over the next few years.
Peter Purton, the report’s author, says the challenge lies in persuading mobile operators and manufacturers that UWB presents more of an opportunity than a threat.
“It could solve a lot of the problems they are facing, in particular interface proliferation and customer confusion,” he says. “If they want it to be a solution rather than another problem, they should be more active in trying to influence UWB—and time is running out for that.”
Depending on how it’s handled, Purton says, UWB could either compete with technologies like infrared and Bluetooth, or they could be integrated together to create even more powerful solutions. “If UWB can be made to coexist well with mobile telephony, it could help avoid the interface profusion that has taken place with the computer from affecting the mobile phone,” he says.
As mobile devices increase in complexity, the number of interfaces on each phone continues to grow—including USB, infrared, Bluetooth, and others. “Not only is this profusion difficult to cope with in a small, battery-driven device, but it confuses users—and probably for no particular reason, as many of these interfaces will probably never be used,” Purton says. “UWB, handled correctly, could replace them all. But the mobile industry has to decide to embrace it.”
Concerns about interference, Purton says, have dogged regulatory efforts worldwide regarding UWB—and he says such caution is a mistake. “While there are indications that UWB may add to the noise affecting some applications such as mobile telephony, nothing so far offers conclusive evidence that it will be so bad that its drawbacks will outweigh its benefits,” he says.
Purton says the same issues apply to the fixed wireless industry and to any other industry that shares spectrum with ultrawideband. “It is a question of balancing benefits with drawbacks,” he says. “Right now, it seems reasonable to give UWB the benefit of the doubt.”
In looking at the timetable for ultrawideband, Purton says he expects to see the first real end user products arriving towards the end of 2005, and the first mobile communications products with ultrawideband arriving in 2007. The technology isn’t likely to take off in consumer electronics, he says, until 2007, and in mobile devices until 2008. “A lot depends on progress with silicon,” he says, “and the attitude of the mobile industry.”