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Bluetooth body picks WiMedia for UWB shift

And the winner is... the WiMedia Alliance

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Future incarnations of Bluetooth will be based upon ultrawideband (UWB), the wireless technology's steering organisation announced today. It said it will use the version of UWB specified by the WiMedia Alliance (WMA) to create a version of Bluetooth that will operate in unlicensed spectrum using chipsets scheduled to sample in Q3 2007.

Back in February 2004, the Intel-backed Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA) withdrew from IEEE efforts to define a UWB standard after the process deadlocked - the organisation was unable to choose between the MOA's proposal and a rival suggestion from a Motorola-led consortium. Since then, the MBOA has completed its UWB physical- and media access-layer specifications, handed them over to the WMA and disbanded. The IEEE abandoned UWB standardisation earlier this year.

The WMA was founded in the early years of the decade to promote standards for wireless connectivity in multimedia and consumer electronics applications. Over the years, UWB has emerged as one of the best ways to link that kind of kit, and the WMA, thanks to the MBOA tie-in, has become a key figure in the UWB arena.

Bluetooth has always been an option too, but as we exclusively reported in February 2004, some key Bluetooth backers and Intel in particular were forecasting a time when the technology's protocols might sit on top of UWB - a move finally ratified in May 2005.

The Bluetooth SIG sees UWB as a way to escape the limits of the 2.4GHz band the technology currently operates in and significantly boost the technology's speed. It wants to the technology to be more broadly adopted for applications beyond wireless headphones and headsets; mice and keyboards; and phone-to-computer links, and that means higher data transfer speeds.

Such a move potentially brings it into conflict with that other Intel technology favourite, wireless USB. The wireless version of not only USB but also Firewire are founded on WMA's UWB technology, just as Bluetooth eventually will be. It's not hard to see the other technologies pitched at the same kind of uses their wired versions are put, while Bluetooth focuses on connections where a low-power device is part of the pairing. There's room, in short, for the three protocols to co-exist.

The Bluetooth SIG said it had chosen the WMA's UWB specification as it best delivered scope to boost Bluetooth's throughout without forcing it to abandon or limit its support for old devices. WMA, in return, gets the backing of an established, global brand and - crucially - closer ties with world spectrum regulators. The WMA and the Bluetooth SIG said next-generation Bluetooth would use "unlicensed" radio spectrum above 6GHz, a move it hopes will "answer concerns" raised by European and Asian regulators.

Work will now commence on defining UWB Bluetooth, a process the SIG said it expects to take a year. ®

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