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UWB group dumps IEEE to speed wireless USB, 1394

And maybe Bluetooth too

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IDF Ultrawideband (UWB) will not only co-exist with rival Personal Area Network standard Bluetooth but may ultimately form the basis for its future, members of newly formed UWB industry bodies suggested today.

In the same way, UWB will also form the basis for wireless versions of stand device interconnectivity technologies such as USB and 1394.

In a bid to bypass so-called "deadlock" at the IEEE over the definition of a working UWB standard, the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA) today said it was effectively pulling out of the IEEE standards process to develop UWB under its own steam.

However, Yoram Solomon, a representative of Alliance member Texas Instruments, pledged that the results of the work - which is expected to lead to the publication of an initial spec. next May - will ultimately feed back into the IEEE.

"The intention is definitely to go back to IEEE once we complete the standard," he said.

The MBOA will define PHY and MAC specifications to enable communications in the 3.1-10.6GHz band based on a dozen proposals put to the IEEE for the 802.15.3a PAN standard. On top of them will sit a software "convergence layer" currently being designed by the WiMedia Alliance, the PAN industry's answer to the Wi-Fi Alliance. Intel today said it has joined WiMedia.

The convergence layer separates out the radio from the protocols that utilise it, enabling multiple applications to share a common radio. One such protocol is the Intel-backed Wireless USB, now being developed by the newly formed Wireless USB Promoter Group. It expects to have a USB 2.0-compatible protocol stack by the end of the year. The WUSB PG is co-operating with the other groups to develop rules that will govern how different protocols share the radio resource fairly and efficiently.

WiMedia, meanwhile, plans to offer Firewireless by building 1394 on top of the convergence layer and MBOA's UWB technology.

It's within this structure that Bluetooth may find room to grow, it emerged. Indeed, Jeff Ravencraft of the WUSB Promoter Group said that the Bluetooth "trade association" - presumably the Bluetooth SIG - is "engaging" with the MBOA and "participating" in the specification development process.

Intel is a member of the Bluetooth SIG, as are Microsoft and Nokia - both also members of the various UWB bodies.

The idea is that Bluetooth might ultimately exist as one of the protocols sitting on top of the convergence layer and the underlying UWB radio.

Bluetooth already has a radio spec. of its own in the 2.4GHz band and, as Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger said today, has shipped in "millions and millions" of devices. "Over time, UWB could replace Bluetooth," he said, "but it's a way, way off. Bluetooth has been shipping for five years and it will ship for five or ten more - it's a very successful technology."

However, it's clear that the future beyond that point belongs to UWB. "UWB is the winning technology where there's a need for high bandwidth over relatively short distances," said Gelsinger. "We've not seen any other technology that could offer high performance and deliver low power." ®

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