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By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2004-10-14 Print this article Print

: FCC Takes a Stand"> Like 802.11n, UWB is a collection of proposals waiting to become an industry standard. Unlike 802.11n, which enjoys enough commonality among the proposals that its reasonable to think we might actually get a standard, the proposals for UWB are so far apart that they make 802.11ns trek toward IEEE ratification look like a cakewalk. But just about the time I was ready to assign UWB to the editorial backburner, the Federal Communications Commission intervened. Here comes another austere organization with a weighty acronym to lend an unusual level of credibility to one of the competing UWB schemes. The FCC issued a finding stating that Freescale Semiconductors Direct Sequence Ultrawide technology did not interfere with other nearby wireless communications. Freescale, as you may recall, is the recent spin-off of Motorolas semiconductor group. Getting FCC validation of a new technology effectively gives the green light to Freescale to start shipping chips—and to OEMs to begin developing products and solutions around them.
Click here to read about Freescales IPO.
The FCCs move raised the question: Does a technology thats not a standard become one ipso facto if it gets the OK, not from the standards-setting organization, but instead from the folks who regulate the airwaves? Alan Varghese, senior director of semiconductor research at ABI Research, wasnt willing to go so far as to answer "yes" when I called to discuss the FCCs action with him. The word he used for the development was "significant." The FCCs action effectively crowned Motorola as the "first mover" in the UWB space, giving it a significant market advantage over its competitors. He postulated, too, that its not beyond the realm of imagination that UWB could trump 802.11 technologies in the high-speed race. But UWB, you might say (as I did), is a PAN (personal area network) technology. And youd be right. Its more likely to supplant Bluetooth than Wi-Fi, you might say (as I did). Thats where Varghese points out a few stats that could impact the situation. "Going forward," he says, "the answers are going to become more and more gray." He notes that UWB requires less power than Wi-Fi and enjoys an advantage from what he calls "a strategic point of view." Varghese comes at the question hot off ABI Researchs release of a new report, "Ultrawideband—Standards, Technology, OEM Strategy and Markets," which looks at UWBs penetration in the market since February 2002, when the FCC authorized its use in certain frequencies. As wireless technologies proliferate, Varghese says, the FCC and other national brokers of the airwaves "realize we have limited spectrum or maybe even no spectrum left." UWB, he notes, "doesnt lock down spectrum. With UWB, you just use the whole spectrum. The beauty is that it co-exists with other uses, so that is the reason the FCC is interested." Next page: UWB as WLAN.

Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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