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UWB is one of the most exciting technologies in the wireless world today, but it's been fraught with controversy since its inception. First, there were issues over its possible interference with other key technologies such as GPS. The FCC rulemaking was a long and torturous process which finally ended in March 2003, and potential changes to these rules are still under discussion. Then, there was a major controversy over standardization, with proponents lining up behind two different proposals and eventually agreeing to disagree. On this series of pages, we provide you with complete historical and current information on UWB, divided into 3 sections. This first page keeps up to date on the newest developments in UWB and the current and historical issues on the standardization front. Our second page provides various UWB resources, and the third page covers complete information on FCC's UWB rulemaking.

This table lists the complete contents of all three of our UWB pages. For information on Ground Penetrating Radar, one of the interesting applications of UWB technology that is already up and running, see our GPR Page.
Contents of Page 1
UWB News

Contents of Page 2
UWB Resources
Contents of Page 3
UWB Rulemaking - The Smartest Place to Buy and Sell More

UWB Headlines & Newsfeeds

UWB Newspages

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August 2007: UWB Approved for European Use

As of August 13, 2007, the British standards body, Ofcom, finally approved the use of ultra-wideband wireless technology without a license for use in the UK. See ZDNet's article for more details. The European Commission had previously approved it for use beginning in February 2007. For information on the European Commission's approval, see InfoWorld's December 6, 2006 article.

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March 2007: WiMedia UWB Platform Published as ISO/IEC Standard

On March 22, 2007, international standards based on the Wi-Media UWB Common Radio Platform were approved for release by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and will be numbered as ISO/IEC 26907 and ISO/IEC 26908.

"ISO/IEC's approval of WiMedia-based ultra-wideband technology as an international standard, coupled with the recent UWB approval by the European Commission, enables consumers and business entities throughout Europe and other countries to benefit from the use of PC, CE and mobile devices powered with UWB technology," said Stephen Wood, president of the WiMedia Alliance.

Following the failure of the standards process in the US, members of the WiMedia Alliance submitted the WiMedia UWB platform specifications to the European Commission for standards development. For more details, see
IHS Electronics article, based on the Wi-Media Alliance's press release.

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April 2006: Motorola & Freescale drop UWB Forum

Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor have pulled out of the UWB Forum which it co-founded with Motorola and Pulse-Link. This forum was an industry group founded in 2004 in an effort to rally support around Freescale's direct-sequence flavor of wireless ultrawideband signaling. This technology was in direct competition with the multiband orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (MB-OFDM) approach favored by the WiMedia Alliance (which includes Intel and Philips and a host of startups).

Freescale's decision to pull out was to focus completely on Cable Free USB, its wireless USB application, as well as wireless 1394 for home networking and also HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface). (The WiMedia Alliance's version is called Wireless USB.)

Pulse-Link is staying in the UWB forum, saying that it and the other 100+ companies that comprised the forum would continue to promote the virtues of impulse-based UWB technology. For more details, see the April 6, 2006 article by Patrick Mannion of EE Times

Pulse Link has a third flavor of UWB which is closer to WLAN. For more details, see the blog entry dated February 21, 2005 by EDN Editorial Director Maury Wright. This technology is called CWave UWB (Continuous Wave UWB). Pulse-Link claims that the CWave technology will offer significantly higher data rates than either the Multiband or the pulse-based UWB alternatives.

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January 2006: UWB Standards Body Gives Up

After nearly three years of wrangling over which approach should form the basis of an IEEE standard, the parties have given up. At a meeting in Hawaii on January 19, 2006, the IEEE committee 802.15.3a, which was tasked with developing a standard, voted unanimously to disband.

The two opposing groups - direct-sequence-UWB proponent UWB Forum, and the Multiband group WiMedia Alliance - issued a joint statement on January 20. Both groups pledged to continue to develop their own approaches and let the marketplace decide which one will become the de facto standard.

It had long been apparent that neither camp was prepared to move off their own position. The committee was made up almost exclusively of members from both groups, which made consensus impossible. UWB Forum members members are pursuing a personal-computer-centered approach which is touted to be a replacement for USB cables that connect computers with their peripherals. Their Cable-Free USB standard is designed to work with existing computers and peripherals without requiring upgrades or new software. A dongle that connects a laptop wirelessly to a USB hub was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier in January, and are expected to go on sale in a few months. They anticipate the technology will be extended later to work with consumer electronics, including TVs and stereos.

Wi-Media supporters, on the other hand, are not expected to reach the marketplace before the end of 2006. They have had a number of important backstage successes, however, with its approach already approved by the European standards body and the USB Forum. It also has a large number of powerful industry backers in their camp, including Intel, Sony, Nokia, HP, Microsoft, and Nokia. Their products will be marketed as "Certified Wireless". Sadly, Certified Wireless USB products and Cable-Free USB products will not be able to communicate, and may interfere with one another.

For more details on this situation, read the articles linked below:
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September 2004: Direct Sequence UWB Takes the Lead

This has been a good summer for the DS UWB camp. The UWB Forum, the industry group that supports this approach over the Multiband (MBOA) approach, has grown from 30 members in May to 76 members by mid-September. A large part of this increase is because the DS approach is way ahead in the race to market -- two years, according to forum leader Freescale. In August, the FCC granted modular certification to Freescale's XS110 chipset, which means commercial shipments can begin immediately. Additionally, three Taiwanese companies -- Universal Scientific Industrial, Gemtek, and GlobalSun Technology -- have closed deals to incorporate Freescale's UWB chipset in Mini-PCI modules for TVs, media servers, and storage devices. These companies anticipate having products ready for the consumer market by early 2005.

In contrast, the megalithic MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), has finalized its physical-layer specifications some four months later than planned, and presented them at the Intel Developers' Forum in early September. However, there is still bitter internal debate among MBOA members over whether the MBOA approach can meet FCC test compliance without compromising range or throughput. MBOA has filed a request for waiver of Part 15 UWB rules with the FCC, and interference testing is underway at FCC laboratories. FCC is fast-tracking the waiver request -- comments on the request are due by September 29, and replies to those comments are due in by October 14.

Although the DS approach must now be considered the leading candidate in the standards battle that has been ongoing in IEEE for more than a year, no one seems to think that the battle is any closer to ending. A straw poll before the IEEE meeting in Berlin in Mid-September indicates that DS has a 60% majority, but not the 75% necessary for adoption. Martin Rofheart, Freescale's UWB Director, plans to suggest in Berlin a dual standard permitting both approaches. This would create a situation similar to Wi-Fi, where there a number of different standards permitted. This would leave the marketplace to determine which of the two will become more popular.

Meanwhile, Intel laid out some interesting information on Multiband UWB at its annual Fall developers forum just completed. The MBOA has the members, the size, and the clout to continue as a major presence, and the infrastructure to make their eventual success likely. Down but not out, in a word!

For more details on this situation, read the articles linked below:
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Summer 2004 UWB News

The Direct Sequence UWB Team Wins One

At the most recent IEEE standards committee meeting, and in a reversal of past votes, the direct sequence UWB proposal backed by Freescale Semiconductor (formerly Motorola's semiconductor sector), won the down-select vote on July 14, 2004. It was unable to get the 75% necessary for selection, though. This was a major surprise for the Multi Band OFDM Alliance (MBOA), which has won the previous down-select votes. Both sides are putting their own spin on the results of this vote, and it makes for some interesting reading.

Also, at the same meeting, a proposal to create a standard that allows for both approaches was defeated. So it looks like this controversy will go on for a while longer.

You can read a very interesting write-up on the meeting by Patrick Manion of here: "Both sides surprised by outcome of UWB vote".

Motorola Spins off its UWB Group

Motorola has just launched Freescale Semiconductor, which was formerly its semiconductor sector. The initial public stock offering was on July 16, 2004. Motorola continues to be the parent company of Freescale. For more information about this new company, see their website: Of particular interest is their UWB page, with UWB product information, articles, press releases, and links.

ITU Meeting in June Considered UWB

Information is still rolling in on the results of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Meeting held in Boston, Massachusetts in June of this year. The major topic on the agenda was UWB, and it's known that ITU would be tough sledding. Some of the news articles and websites related to this meeting are listed below:
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April 2004 UWB Shorts

Proposal Aired for Resolving UWB Standards Controversy

A proposal by UWB technology player PulseLink suggests using an agreed-upon low-speed signaling mode to negotiate differences between UWB devices operating under different UWB standards. If this works, it would eliminate the need to reach consensus on a single UWB standard. PulseLink, which originally unveiled this proposal last September, intends to put in on the agenda at the International Telecommunications Union meeting in June.

A number of UWB proposals will be on the table at the ITU meeting. So far, the ITU has been hostile to any form of UWB, so not much may be accomplished. Despite this, and Intel's stated opinion that it doubts whether a common signaling approach will work, PulseLink remains optimistic.

For more information on this subject, see the following:

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March 2004 Tidbits

Xtreme Spectrum Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

XtremeSpectrum Inc., a UWB pioneer and one of the key proponents of the underdog direct sequence CDMA approach to UWB, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 10, 2004, at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Alexandria, Virginia. This comes only four months after selling its ultra-wideband technology assets to Motorola Inc. The bankruptcy petition, lists assets between $1 million and $10 million and liabilities between $1 million and $10 million. The largest unsecured creditors include Alliance Technology Ventures II ($1.67 million), Cadence Design Systems Inc. ($1.61 million), TI Ventures III L.P. ($1.46 million), Drax Holdings L.P. ($1.31 million), POD Holding L.P. ($1.06 million) and Motorola Inc. ($795,833). XtremeSpectrum, a Delaware corporation, is based in Vienna, Va.

With the standards controversy between Motorola/Xtreme Spectrum and the Multiband Alliance (MBOA) (backers of the multiband OFDM variant of UWB) at a stalemate, it is not certain what impact Xtreme's financial woes may have on deployment of UWB. MBOA has been very noticeable in the press recently. See The Next Video Data Channel? Consortium Developing Wireless USB Standard for Audio, Video, a March 15, 2004 article by Sebastian Rupley, PC Magazine. This article details the progress in developing a USB that will use MBOA's version of UWB. (For more information on USB, see our
Universal Serial Bus page.)

Other March News

Ultrawideband standards split deepens, article by Rupert Goodwins for ZDNet UK, March 17, 2004. The lead to the article states, "The race for ultrawideband supremacy is getting dirtier, with existing agreements torn up by Intel and its friends." Interesting summary of recent happenings in the standards battle, along with some opinions.

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February 2004 UWB Happenings


Intel, Partners To Develop Proprietary UWB Spec, Article by Mark Hachman of ExtremeTech for EWeek, February 18, 2004.

Ultrawideband gets mixed reception, Article by Ron Wilson for EE Times, February 18, 2004. At a blue-ribbon panel convened at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco to ponder the question, "To UWB, or Not to Be?" The answers were decidedly mixed.

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January 2004: NTIA Supports UWB Rulemaking

In late January, the Bush Administration came out in favor of adopting the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ultra wideband (UWB) emission limits for all outdoor device applications.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the executive branch's primary policy voice on telecommunications and information technology issues, filed comments on January 15, saying it believes the restrictions on the pulse repetition frequency used by UWB are unnecessary as long as the current emission limits for handheld devices are met.

Noting that the FCC had proposed additional rules to address issues regarding the operation of low-pulse repetition frequency UWB transmission systems, NTIA said that was unnecessary.

"NTIA believes that if the FCC adopts the handheld UWB device emission limits for expanded outdoor device applications, no restrictions on PRF are necessary," said NTIA. "NTIA also believes that if the handheld emission limits are adopted, there is no technical reason to further limit UWB device applications as long as the commission retains the current restrictions forbidding the use of a fixed outdoor infrastructure and the operation of UWB devices in toys."

NTIA's filing also includes analysis of pulsed frequency hopping vehicular radar systems operating in the 22-29 GHz frequency range. NTIA found no greater interference from such systems with government passive sensing satellites than is presently permitted. The NTIA noted, however, that its conclusions do not apply to UWB frequency hopping systems in other bands. In its comments, NTIA proposes a compliance measurement procedure for pulsed frequency hopping vehicular radar systems.

NTIA does oppose one FCC proposal that would eliminate the minimum bandwidth requirement from the definition of a UWB transmitter. According to the NTIA comments, removing the minimum bandwidth requirement could allow unlicensed non-UWB operations in restricted bands.

See the following for more information:

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December 2003: Royalty-Free UWB Licenses & Other Shenanigans

Texas Instruments, one of the principal proponents of the The MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), issued a press release on December 8, 2003 offering royalty-free UWB licenses under TI essential patents, if the MBOA proposal is ratified as the new IEEE 802.15.3a standard for high speed WPANs. This moved is aimed at sweetening the pot for adoption of the MBOA proposal, which has been stalled since last spring.

You can read the press release here [Editor's note: this is no longer available.] It's got some interesting comments on the reasons why TI believes the MBOA proposal to be the better approach for the UWB standard -- they cite its "ability to efficiently capture nearly 100 percent of the multi-path energy, which results in having the best range, its ability to provide a robust link in the presence of multi-path and interference, its relaxed RF and analog requirements, and its ability to coexist with current and future wireless services."

Also, there's another interesting article here about the UWB standards controversy:

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November 2003: Train Wreck in Albuquerque

The Albuquerque meeting of the IEEE 802.15 committee failed to break the deadlock over which UWB proposal will form the basis of a new standard. On Monday, November 10, the committee voted to leave the proposal sponsored by the MultiBand OFDM Alliance as the only proposal on the ballot. Despite this, on November 11 the proposal only garnered 57% of the total, substantially less than the 75% necessary for approval. The final tally was 96 votes for the proposal and 69 against, with 3 abstentions.

This continuing failure to reach agreement only enhances the likelihood that one or more de facto standards, independent of the IEEE, may well be the way forward for UWB.

Click for a
detailed article on this issue from Electronic Times.

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November 2003: Motorola Makes UWB Play

Motorola is making a move aimed at enhancing the chances for adoption of its position at the IEEE standards meeting that began this week in Albuquerque, NM.

Motorola announced November 10 that it is planning to acquire Xtreme Spectrum, one of the original players in the development of Ultra wideband. Both Motorola and XtremeSpectrum have been active in the IEEE standardization efforts for UWB, and are proponents of the "underdog" single-band UWB standards proposal.

This announcement follows XtremeSpectrum's recent Letter of Assurance to IEEE, stating that if XtremeSpectrum's proposed approach to the IEEE 802.15.3a standard is adopted, XtremeSpectrum would be willing to grant royalty-free licenses under XtremeSpectrum's essential patents to parties who would grant a similar royalty-free license under their patents to XtremeSpectrum and other licensees of the company's patents. This speaks directly to one of the concerns raised by Motorola and XtremeSpectrum with respect to the multiband proposal sponsored by Intel, TI, Nokia and other heavy hitters, which calls for more restrictive intellectual property licensing.

For more information on this issue, see
ZDNet's article on the proposed acquisition, and ZDNet's article on XtremeSpectrum's royalty-free licensing proposal.

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October 2003: IEEE Unable to Agree on UWB Standard in Singapore

The two remaining UWB standards proposals were again considered at the IEEE Committee's meeting in Singapore on September 14-19 (see article below for more information on the two proposals). The Multiband-OFDM proposal favored by Intel, Texas Instruments, and others, again garnered about 60% of the votes. This was not enough for adoption over the proposal sponsored by Motorola and Xtreme Spectrum, so the selection is still open. A final decision could now be made in November at the Committee's next meeting in Albuquerque.

In addition to concerns over whether the multiband approach meets FCC requirements, opponents also object that it does not guarantee zero-royalty intellectual property licensing, only a "reasonable and fair" licensing policy, and have raised issues about the fairness of the IEEE process.

Intel elaborated on their earlier hints about breaking off from the IEEE committee to pursue a proprietary approach to UWB. Speaking before the Singapore meeting, Pat Gelsinger, Chief Technical Officer at Intel, said that Intel is considering creating a special interest group (SIG) to set a standard independent of the IEEE. "If agreement isn't reached in the next three meetings we may consider an alternate strategy such as a SIG," he said. "We have strong confidence of getting it if not this time, then in November or at the subequent meeting. Nothing else is close."

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September 2003: UWB Standards Battle Heats Up

In recent months, the UWB battlefield has moved to the IEEE in its standards-making role. The 802.15.3a committee has been considering 21 different standards proposals. In July, the committee held its first vote and whittled down the field of contenders to two: the multiband OFDM (MB-OFDM) proposal sponsored by the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (Texas Instruments, Intel Corp, and 14 others), and a second proposal backed by a team including XtremeSpectrum Inc. (XSI), Motorola, and ParthusCeva. The MB-OFDM proposal won a majority of the votes, but fell short of the 75% necessary to exclude competing proposals.

The next meeting, set for September 14-19 in Singapore (that's RIGHT NOW, folks) should be pretty volatile. Shortly after the July meeting, Xtreme and Motorola filed a request for a declaratory ruling with the FCC, contending that the MB-OFDM proposal does not comply with the FCC's regulations. FCC's Deputy Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology, Julius Knapp, ducked the issue last week, saying that a ruling was "premature" because IEEE deliberations were still continuing. Knapp doesn't rule out further FCC involvement in this issue at a later time, however:
We urge that IEEE perform technical analyses to ensure that any UWB standard it develops will not cause levels of interference beyond that already anticipated by the rules. This information will be needed to support any necessary FCC rules interpretations or other appropriate action for the chosen standard.
We recommend that IEEE proceed with its standards development process and that the committee address any questions to us at a later time when it has formed a specific proposal.
Here's an interesting article on FCC's decision:
  • "FCC Ducks UWB Decision," Unstrung News Analysis, September 12, 2003. Reports on FCC's decision not to enter the standards controversy until after IEEE selects a UWB standard.
For more information on the July meeting, and the reasoning behind XSI's contention that the MB-OFDM proposal doesn't meet FCC standards, see Unstrung's July 30 article, UWB Caught on the Hop .

In the meantime, another controversy is raging between the two parties over the standards process itself. XSI and Motorola contend that a private meeting in Denver between multiband proponents and members of the 803.15a Committee was not legal under IEEE bylaws because single band proponents weren't invited. The multiband group contends that XSI et al aren't open to compromise, and that the meeting would not have been productive had they been invited. The XSI group disagrees with this contention.

Intel added another twist to the mix by stating that if a compromise isn't reached soon, they might break off from the IEEE committee to pursue a proprietary approach to UWB. For more information, read
"Samsung adopts XSI's chip set as UWB standards debate heats up," by Patrick Mannion for EE Times, September 10, 2003. It has some interesting information on the behind-the-scenes issues in the UWB standards debate.

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