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Academics call for UWB licensing

'Cross people in both camps'

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Leading academics and researchers have called for the licensing of Ultra Wide Band (UWB) to be given the green light as soon as possible, warning that the UK could miss out on huge economic gains if it continues to drag its feet.

Speaking at the Open Future of Wireless conference at the University of Cambridge today, Professor Andy Hopper, the head of the university's computer lab, launched into a scathing attack on business and regulators for failing to reach an agreement on exactly how the radio spectrum should be licensed.

"Big companies want to draw it out for as long as possible so that small companies fall by the wayside. Smaller companies get funded on the assumption that standards will be introduced or that Ofcom will support them, But that seems a little problematic at the moment," he said.

He pointed out that Cambridge has a license to use UWB in its computer lab, and that over the last 15 years, researchers at the university have developed technology that has been authorised and can be sold in the US, but can't be used commercially in the UK. "This is work that has been pioneered here," he railed.

David Cleevely, chair of the Communications Innovation Institute, and the IEE representative in charge of UWB, told The Register: "There are cross people in two camps - those who want to use and sell UWB technology, and those who are dreadfully worried that UWB will create an enormous amount of radio pollution."

He argued that the economic benefit of allowing ultra-wide-band could far outweigh any economic harm it might cause, for example, to mobile operators. "Ofcom has conducted a study - looked at how much it would cost operators to compensate for the pollution caused by UWB. They came up with a mask that means the cost is almost unmeasurably low."

He added that it would be tough to meet the requirements of the mask, but said that he thinks it is doable.

"Think of it in terms of pollution: you can buy the right to pollute. We can do the same with UWB. In 10-15 years it will be worth billions to the UK economy. With that kind of money we could put a radio telescope on the far side of the moon."

There are two paths for the future of spectrum regulation, Cleevely concluded, before apologising for imminent evangelism.

"The first is that we assume that we have the technology that we need, assign property rights and treat the spectrum purely as a set of frequencies. But that would lock us into a way of doing business for the next 100 years.

"The alternative is that we think laterally, like the developers of the early net. We could open up possibilities we haven't even dreamed of," he said. ®

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