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Ultrawideband spec battle takes shape

As ultrawideband (UWB) products make their way to market, analysts expect their first applications to be for point-to-point connections, such as moving information between PCs and home entertainment devices like televisions. Eventually, point-to-multipoint functions will enable all devices in a home to be connected wirelessly, reports TechNewsWorld.

Currently UWB technology is in a battle to establish a de facto standard. Thwarted in their attempts to craft a compromise IEEE specification, vendors have broken into two warring camps.

On one side is a group lead by Freescale, which was spun off from Motorola. This group is promoting an approach called direct sequence signaling. The competing specification is multiband orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. It has been endorsed by 170 companies.

Both options promise to support low-cost wireless connectivity at speeds from 400 Mb/s to potentially 1 Gb/s at distances up to 10m — 10 to 20 times faster than current techniques. Eventually, set-top boxes, flat-panel digital displays, digital cameras and camcorders, DVD players, digital video recorders, stereo components and speakers, wireless home-theater systems, cell phones, and PCs could use the UWB standard to exchange information.

Two years ago, after gaining insight into the emerging requirements, vendors began outlining different ways to enhance wireless connections. The MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA) outlined its approach in May 2003 and brought it to the IEEE. For a standard to be approved, 75 percent of the companies working on the specification must endorse it. The MBOA garnered only 58 percent of the vote and decided to give up its attempt to gain an IEEE stamp of approval.

Since then, the two camps have been trying to garner support for their favored specs. So far, Freescale is ahead in the race to deliver compliant products. Yet, UWB could lose the opportunity to become a mass-market wireless connectivity initiative unless the standards dispute is resolved.

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