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Ofcom exempts wall-piercing tech

Ultra Wide Band also to be allowed in cars

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Ofcom has published new proposals for the use of Ultra Wideband equipment, updating the measures which were rushed through to prevent the flood of grey imports from the USA.

The regulator's new proposals increase the transmission power for all UWB equipment, and also permit the use of UWB in cars and trains in addition to inside buildings and outside when used with portable equipment. Building Material Analysis is also permitted, allowing walls to be scanned for wires, pipes and other potential DIY catastrophes.

Following the fashion for cognitive radio UWB kit will be allowed to use even higher powers if it checks the spectrum it wants to use is clear first. Detect And Avoid (DAA) techniques can be applied to any UWB use, while Low Duty Cycle (LDC) only helps in the 3.1-4.8GHz band.

UWB uses big chunks of radio spectrum to send huge amounts of data very short distances. Hundreds of megabits of data per second can be shuttled several meters without interfering with other users thanks to very low transmission power.

Equipment conforming to the Wireless USB standard became available in the US almost exactly two years ago, prompting a flurry of paper as the EU panicked at the idea of Europeans illegally importing US kit to get rid of those unsightly USB cables - thus the rushed legislation enacted by Ofcom in August 2007.

But it turned out that no-one really cared about plugging in USB cables, and Wireless USB hasn't so much been a damp squid as a dead duck, so the onslaught of US imports equally never happened.

USB is far from dead, the WiMedia standard is still knocking around and once it gets cost effective to run about 6GHz then Bluetooth will start using it, but none of that is going to happen quickly, which gives Ofcom ample time to consult on the implications.

That consultation (pdf) is open until August 4, with the regulator expecting to enact legislation by November this year. But don't expect the industry to respond with a rush of UWB products by Christmas. This is one technology that's going to take a few years to mature, at least.

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