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Europe beams out UWB roadmap

Agrees on the need for harmonisation

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The European Commission has taken the first steps towards an EU-wide license for Ultra Wide Band (UWB) radio communications, by agreeing that such an approach is necessary and laying down the basic pattern of adoption.

UWB has enormous potential as a cable-replacement technology. It offers huge amounts of bandwidth over very short ranges, making it ideal for shifting video around or connecting devices such as speakers to home audio equipment.

The EU recognises the potential and understands the importance of a harmonised market to economies of scale and drive down costs.

As predicted by the Wireless USB consortium, it is concern about grey imports that's driving the commission "with the aim of avoiding the otherwise expected massive proliferation of equipment imported from the US or Asia and put into service illegally [which] would ultimately risk a de facto acceptance of non-European rules which might not protect other radio users in Europe".

The agreement lays down some restrictions on device capabilities, including an assumption that most UWB equipment will be for indoor use (walls seriously restrict UWB propagation, and thus reduce potential interference) and will shut down transmissions after 10 seconds without acknowledgement.

Eventually, UWB is expected to shift to above 6GHz where it will have more room to breathe, but until 2011 the use of 4.2 to 4.8GHz without mitigation techniques (to detect and avoid interfering with other sources) will be allowed.

The Wireless USB consortium expects host devices, such as PCs or TVs, to be able to operate at any of the available frequencies with devices like cameras and video servers being regionally restricted depending on local laws.

The decision document also makes much of the unknown nature of UWB interference, and the importance of flexible regulation to allow for developments in technology and techniques, as well as responding to unforeseen interference issues. ®

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