Ofcom says ultrawideband is ready for the limelight

Ultrawideband (UWB) could be worth billions of pounds to the UK economy over the next 15 years according to a report published today by Ofcom. The report recommends that in order to achieve these benefits, the restrictions on UWB need to be the minimum necessary to avoid interference with other devices and says that Ofcom needs to work with the EU to establish Europe-wide standards.

Developers of UWB devices see initial applications as being like Bluetooth on steroids being able to transmit large amounts of data around the home, for example, high-definition video transmitted wirelessly from a broadband connection to TVs around the house. More advanced applications could be via a personal area network (PAN) where some could wear receivers to get information on anything from traffic reports to music and video on the go and the inevitable advertising.

UWB can potentially transfer large amounts of data (up to 100Mbs or greater) wirelessly over short distances, typically less than 10 metres by using a range of frequencies simultaneously to transmit data in parallel. This is in contrast to normal wireless systems, which use narrow frequencies to carry a signal.

However, this wideband transmission could interfere with other nearby frequencies. Therefore the report says that Ofcom should work with the current draft European draft ‘ETSI UWB mask for indoor communications applications’. The report says that the regulator might lobby for slightly tighter limits than those currently proposed to guard against interference, although it points out that too tight limits will limit the commercial potential for UWB. Outdoor usage should also be tightly controlled at the moment whilst potential dangers are fully investigated.

In the US, where UWB is already being developed and chipsets have been developed, the FCC has defined UWB to be a spectrum that uses a bandwidth more than 20 per cent of the central frequency or an absolute bandwidth greater than 500 MHz. In the US, UWB PAN applications, devices must operate in the 3.1 to 10.6 GHz frequency band according to the current FCC rules on UWB indoor communications.

The report ‘Value of UWB Personal Area Networking Services to the United Kingdom’ was carried out by Mason Communications and Dotecon.

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