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Samsung plots Ultra-wideband WLAN future

Exit 802.11, enter 802.15.3a

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Samsung is to develop wireless connectivity products based on Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, the South Korean chip maker said today.

Co-operating on the project is US-based Staccato Communications, which will provide the UWB know-how. Samsung's contribution is its semiconductor development expertise and facilities, not to mention its consumer electronics and PC manufacturing clout.

The products the pair intend to come up with will target high-speed applications. They are aiming at offering 480Mbps data rates - perhaps not coincidentally the same throughput as USB 2.0. The first UWB chipsets the two offer will support the IEEE 802.15.3a specification.

IEEE 802.15.3a is an extension to the IEEE 802.15.3 draft standard for a high-speed wireless personal area network (WPAN) physical layer. The IEEE task group charged with defining 802.15.3a is currently weighing up a number of proposed specifications, many of which centre on using UWB.

Once determined and, ultimately, ratified by the IEEE, 802.15.3a will provide the basis for home multimedia networks. For example, the WiMedia Alliance, of which Samsung is a member, is working to develop the Protocol Abstraction Layer (PAL) to allow 1394 traffic to operate across an 802.15.3a link.

UWB radio is about transmitting digital data over a wide range of frequencies at very low power. Pulses of very short duration (typically less than a few trillionths of a second) are broadcast simultaneous across the frequency range. One upshot is the ability to beam signals through physical obstructions that tend to hamper more frequency-limited wireless technologies. Because the pulse are so short, they are far less likely to interfere with other broadcast communications.

By spreading the pulses across the spectrum, you can deliver extremely high data transfer rates - think of the higher speeds offered by older parallel buses over serial buses. The wireless equivalents of those serial links are traditional, narrow-channel radio wave communications, such as those used by 802.11. Shortening the pulse duration increases the bandwidth too. ®

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