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Ofcom enacts Ultrawide Band

To a thunderous round of indifference

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

UK regulator Ofcom has set out the regulations under which Ultrawide Band radio connections can be used, despite the fact that no-one seems very interested in deploying UWB right now.

Ofcom's considered response is in stark contrast to the initial legalisation, which was rushed through against the fear of grey imports flooding into Europe from America and making regulation impossible. This time we have sensibly structured caps on transmitting power and permitted usage, with the only real debate being about what constitutes a train and if Jersey is worthy of a footnote.

Once the FCC approved the use of UWB the assumption was that European consumers, desperate for the 480Mb/sec claimed data rates, would rush to order equipment from the USA. But the hub-and-client structure of Wireless USB - the first available implementation of UWB - discouraged many and the rest were put off by a range measured in centimetres.

The Bluetooth SIG has endorsed the WiMedia implementation of UWB, but only above 6GHz and therefore technically tricky for a year or two until the technology improves. A few people are using Wireless USB for specific applications, where it's probably very useful, but for the rest of us a USB cable works fine and delivers power too.

UWB techniques can also be used to detect pipes and suchlike in walls, but there's not been such a rush to develop devices supporting that application as the big money was supposed to be in connecting computers together.

But when the devices do come and we find ourselves desperate to transmit huge files wirelessly over very short distances - or map the insides of our walls - then we'll be legally allowed to do so. As long as we're indoors, or the kit is portable and isn't attached to any permanent structure out of doors, or we're in a train, or on a tram. That last detail is clarified in the new regulations (pdf), along with the addition of a footnote stating explicitly that the new rules extend to Jersey and the Isle of Man, all of which will come into force on October 15th. ®

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