Unable to resolve a deadlock between two competing proposals, the IEEE working group responsible for the ultrawideband technology threw in the towel Thursday.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.15.3a task group (TG3a), which oversaw the formation of the UWB standard agreed to withdraw the Jan. 2003 project authorization request that formed the group. Instead, the two competing technologies—MB-OFDM, championed by the Intel-led WiMedia Forum, and DS-UWB, promoted by Freescale Semiconductor and its UWB Forum—will be left to fight it out in the marketplace.
Although the IEEE group went back and forth for more than two years, the first hints that the working group would be disbanded came last August, when the WiMedia Forum convinced the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) to adopt its technology. In turn, WiMedia Forum members said that the ECMA group would help fast-track the WiMedia technology into the International Standards Organization, or ISO, known for its ISO 9000 quality controls and A4 universal paper size, among other standards.
Until then consumers will be left at the mercy of marketing machines until an ISO standard is finalized, or one technology wins out in the marketplace.
Currently, neither UWB technology can talk to or interoperate with the other. Perhaps fortunately, few UWB products have been announced. Two USB-to-UWB extenders from Belkin and Gefen were announced at the recent CES show in Las Vegas, utilizing the Freescale DS-UWB technology. Both are due to ship later this quarter.
WiMedia Forum backers have not announced any end products, although they have described how they will work, along with built-in security mechanisms. The delays have led to the suspicion that the WiMedia Forums “Wireless USB” UWB implementation will have to wait until 2007.
Ironically, not only did the fractious WiMedia Forum and UWB Forum contribute the 75 percent supermajority votes needed to dissolve the working group, but the two sides also issued a terse joint statement.
“As the industry organizations dedicated to productization, we thank all contributing TG3a members and voters for their respective efforts during the past three years,” both groups said. “However, we concur that, at this stage in UWB market development, a more prudent course of action is necessary to allow the market to move forward with the commercialization of multiple UWB technologies.”