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Intel to Develop its Own Ultrawideband Technology
Feb 20, 2004
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Frustrated by an impasse in the IEEE standards body, Intel Corp. and its partners have decided to pull out of the standards organization and develop their own version of ultrawideband (UWB) technology.

The MultiBand OFDM Alliance, backed by Intel, Texas Instruments Inc., and others, will design its own UWB radio layer and the associated silicon. Many of the MBOA member companies also recently announced the Wireless USB Promoter Group, which will use the eventual MBOA standard to run the Universal Serial Bus protocol over the UWB radio.

Executives at Texas Instruments said the ongoing impasse within the IEEE 802.15.3a standards group had made further development of the standard impossible. Since September, the group has been deadlocked between two proposals: MBOA's proposed standard, and the alternative suggested by Motorola Inc. and its subsidiary, XtremeSpectum.

Yoram Solomon, who leads TI's Consumer Networking organization housing the UWB protocol, said that development within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is "blocked" and that the technology can't wait. "We're doing this in parallel with the IEEE," he said. "We're not taking anything away from the IEEE."

Once the standard is completed, the MBOA will resubmit to the IEEE for approval as a fait accompli, executives said. The MBOA specification expects to be able to transfer about 480 Mbits per second, through a spectrum of between 3 to 5 GHz, using OFDM as a physical-layer technology.

For Intel, UWB's appeal is simple: eliminating the USB and IEEE 1394 cords that connect consumer and other devices with a PC. "Our job is to kill the wires and we think that UWB is the technology that kills the rat's nest (of wires)," said Pat Gelsinger, chief technology officer of Intel, at the Intel Developer Forum. The executive said that there are numerous precedents of standards developed outside the IEEE, among them the Accelerated Graphics Port, and UWB products are expected to begin shipping in 2005.

An executive at Motorola Inc. also recently said his company would float a common signaling language protocol to bridge the gap between the two specifications.

The Wireless USB specification will be delivered by the end of 2004, said Jeff Ravencraft, technology manager for the Communications Technology Laboratory at Intel and chairman of the USB Implementer's Forum. A security spec is also being developed. (Ziff Davis Media)

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