Alliance Simplifies Ultrawideband Debate

The WiMedia Alliance and Multiband OFDM Alliance ultrawideband group join forces and provide a timetable for finalization of key standards.

SAN FRANCISCO—The WiMedia Alliance and the Multiband OFDM Alliance ultrawideband group joined forces on Wednesday, simplifying the debate surrounding the wireless technology.

Analysts said the alliance, now known as the WiMedia Alliance Inc., formalized an already tight working relationship between the two organizations, which shared common members and goals.

Executives in the MBOA camp, which includes Intel Corp. and a number of other semiconductor companies and OEMs, also provided an updated timetable for the finalization of key standards.

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"This is a very vibrant ecosystem," said Kevin Kahn, a senior fellow and director at Intel. "We can argue whos in what camp or who does what, but the whos who of the industry pretty much is here."

The merged organization will serve as a focal point for regulatory activities as well as best practices, said Kursat Kimyacioglu, director of business line development for business connectivity solutions at Philips and a vice president of the WiMedia Alliance. The alliance will be chaired by Stephen Wood of Intel.

The group is already working on a single standard software MAC layer, Kimyacioglu said, and will govern the interoperability of the finished devices. The merged alliance also includes the Wireless USB and Wireless 1394 groups, which will use UWB to eliminate the wires used to connect USB and IEEE 1394-compliant products.

"Its not earthshaking," said Mike Feibus, an analyst with TechKnowledge Strategies in Cave Creek, Ariz. "It would be much more significant if Motorola or Freescale were here," he said, naming the two leading companies of the DS-UWB (Direct Sequence UWB) camp, which has developed a rival UWB standard.

In a press conference held in a hotel near the Intel Developer Forum here, WiMedia executives provided an updated timetable for standards development.

Two key components—the physical layer (PHY) and software media access (MAC) layer—need to be agreed upon before products can ship. The PHY specification has been completed, but is being subjected to an IP review by the member companies and should be delivered by the end of the month, Kimyacioglu said. The MAC protocol should be approved by May.

Two other specifications—the WiMedia Convergence Architecture (WiMCA) and WiMedia Network Protocol Application (WiNET)—should be completed by the middle of the year. Both specifications are needed for improved interoperability and TCP/IP support, respectively.

In addition, group members said they are "cautiously optimistic" that a waiver sent to the Federal Communications Commission will be approved next week. Early testing appeared to show that the MBOA protocols were in violation of FCC interference rules, but alliance members spent considerable resources attempting to convince the agency that the technology is, in fact, obeying the FCCs restrictions.

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