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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. On this page, we have a complete history and current information on FCC rules concerning UWB, from 1998 to the present. Scroll down the page, or jump to one of the topics listed below.

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, 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

March 2003: FCC Issues UWB Memorandum Opinion and Order

On March 13, 2003, the FCC issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Ultra-wideband. This is an 89 page document accompanied by separate statements from Chairman Powell and Commissioner Copps. Comments are being accepted for 90 days, followed by an additional period for reply comments.

This Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) amends Part 15 in response to 14 petitions filed after the original Report and Order on UWB (February 2002, see below). While not making major changes in the technical operating parameters for UWB devices, it does relax restrictions on operations of through wall imaging systems and ground penetrating radar.

New rules are proposed to address issues raised regarding the operation of low pulse repetition frequency UWB systems, including vehicular radars, in the 3.1-10.6 GHz band; the operation of frequency hopping vehicular radars in the 22-29 GHz band as UWB devices; the establishment of new peak power limits for wideband Part 15 devices that do not operate as UWB devices; and the definition of a UWB device.

The FCC states its expectations that during the next 12-18 months, UWB devices will be introduced and additional tests using such commercially available UWB devices will be completed. At that time, FCC intends to continue reviewing the UWB standards to determine whether further changes to the regulations are warranted.

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February 2003 UWB Technology Demonstration

On February 13, 2003, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) hosted a technology demonstration of Ultra-wideband devices at the FCC Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D. C. FCC senior staff was available at the beginning of the event to address regulatory actions taken by the Commission in this area. Six different companies presented UWB systems demonstrations. See the full text of the press release (.doc file, 50K).

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October 2002 NASA Report on UWB Aviation Interference

--by Jim Pearce, President, Pegasus Technologies, Inc.

A new report on a study of possible UWB interference to aircraft radio systems has just been released by NASA. It is available for download from NASA or from SSS Online's PDF archives. The file is in PDF format and is 448K.

This report shows high interference potential to various radio systems such as the ILS and TCAS, but it seems to me to have been written with a particular agenda in mind. My personal view after reading this report is that the measurement technique is suspect, particularly with regard to the field strength of the UWB signal that was interfering with the radios.

The test methodology consisted of connecting a UWB test signal generator to an antenna tuned to the frequency of the particular radio service that was being investigated. For example, while looking for ILS interference they connected the UWB signal generator to an antenna tuned to 108MHz. Of course, actual UWB products would have antennas tuned to several GHz.

No accredited laboratory measurements were made of the actual emitted field strength of the UWB transmitter in this configuration, so the EIRP that was used is not known.

The fact that one can coax interference out of an experimental UWB setup is not surprising to me. I think it would be much more relevant, however, to configure the UWB transmitter with an antenna that is more likely to be used in an actual UWB device, and to subject the setup to accredited lab emissions tests -- and then see if there is any detrimental interference.

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2002 USC-UltRa Lab UWB Interference Report

"Ultra Wideband Interference Effects on an Amateur Radio Receiver,", by R.D. Wilson et al of University of Southern California's UltRa Lab, is available for download from NASA or from SSS Online's PDF archives. The file is in PDF format and is 90K.

This paper illustrates the complexity of issues surrounding the accurate measurement and interpretation of UWB interference effects in narrowband receivers.

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FCC Approves Ultra Wideband Technology

On April 22, 2002, the United States Federal Communications Commission released the text of its First Report and Order on Ultra Wideband.

Download here -- zip format 242KB

On February 14, 2002, the FCC commissioners unanimously approved limited uses of UWB, giving a real valentine to the wireless community. FCC has promised to review the standards in the next 6-12 months to explore the potential of more flexible standards and to address the operation of additional types of UWB operations and technology. For now, UWB communications devices will be restricted to intentional operation only between 3.1 and 10.6 GHz; through-wall imaging and surveillance systems restricted between 1.99 and 10.6 GHz (and used only for law enforcement, fire and rescue, and other designated organizations) and automotive radars restricted to frequencies above 24.075 GHz. Initial communications applications are further restricted to tethered operations indoor, or to lower out-of-band emissions, outdoor hand-held use.

See the FCC UWB Emission Spectral Templates here:
HTML version || Power Point version (120 K)

This technology has followed pretty much the same path as spread spectrum -- originally developed in secret for the military and classified for many years, it has only come out of the closet in the last few years. There are many exciting potential uses for this technology -- including finding people buried under rubble of collapsed buildings, detecting cracks in critical structures, and for vehicle avoidance systems -- but there is also much controversy over the best way to implement it.

The mud has really been flying over UWB since the FCC released its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on May 10, 2000. This proposed a modification of the Part 15 Rules to allow license-free use of UWB transmitters. A storm of controversy erupted over these proposed rules, with more than 400 comments received and many months of behind the scenes negotiations among key players.

The key issue in the controversy is the interference potential of unfettered UWB use with traditional weak signal radio services, such as GPS. This is because UWB, unlike other technologies which use narrow assigned frequencies to avoid interference, uses a broad swath of the radio spectrum but in thousands or millions of pulses of low-powered emissions per second. Some UWB proponents, most notably Time Domain Corporation and Xtreme Spectrum, argued that very brief UWB pulses will not cause significant interference. Others, such as Multispectral Solutions, Inc., held that some forms of UWB will cause interference and believe that UWB emissions should not be allowed in any critical weak signal frequency, mainly those below 3 GHz. Still others, including the US Department of Defense, the airline industry, and companies such as Sprint that are heavily involved in other wireless technologies, felt that UWB should not be allowed at all below 4.2 GHz, 6 GHz or even higher.

News Headlines of Interest About FCC's Approval

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FCC UWB Rulemaking, 1998 - April 2002
FCC's Complete Docket File on the Proposed Rulemaking
In the dialog box, enter "98-153" in box 1, "Proceeding" and press the "Retrieve Document List" button at the bottom of the screen. This will bring up a list of more than 500 documents, from the first FCC Notice of Inquiry to the most recently received comments. You can scroll through the list and view full text files from the FCC and a wide range of commenters including individuals, labor unions, other government agencies, and numerous corporations -- fascinating reading!

   FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, May 10, 2000 (146K).

Initial FCC documents on UWB — This includes the FCC Notice of Inquiry dated September 1, 1998 and an Extension of Time Order dated December 30, 1998.

   Federal Register listing of the 1998 UWB Notice of Inquiry (19K)

   FCC's 1998 Notice of Inquiry into UWB transmission. (44K)

   OET Bulletin No. 63 - FCC Regulations for Low-power, Non-licensed Transmitters (932K).

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NTIA Reports on UWB, January 2001 - January 2002
The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has issued a series of reports on UWB that address these issues. These reports have also been filed with the FCC for inclusion in the public record in their ongoing UWB proceeding, and have led to another series of comments from the public. The reports are available in a variety of formats at the links below:

NTIA Reports Relating to UWB

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Fallout from FCC's Decision to Delay UWB Consideration,
December 2001-March 2002
The delay raised further protest from proponents of the proposed rules, including several companies set to introduce new chip sets and other products using the UWB technology. See links and articles below for some of the more interesting ones!

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FCC reschedules UWB Consideration for sixty days, December 2001
The FCC intended to consider a First Report and Order on UWB in its meeting on December 12, 2001. However, in response to a November 20 letter from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the discussion was postponed until the FCC's meeting of February 14, 2002.

Read the 20 November 2001 letter from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to Commerce Secretary Donald Evans requesting the delay . This letter states DOD's position that the proposed rules are not adequate to protect GPS and other critical defense systems, and that different rules should address unlicensed and licensed UWB devices.

Another letter addressing this same subject was dated November 19, from Badri A. Younes, Director of Spectrum Management for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence OASD(C3I) to William T. Hatch, Associate Administrator, Office of Spectrum Management, NTIA. This letter stated that DOD wants to prohibit intentional UWB emissions below 3.1 GHz, and preferably, below 4.2 GHz. OASD believes that Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and imaging sensors should be excluded from this prohibition, but should be licensed to conform to more restrictive emission limitations.

Read the FCC notice of deletion of the UWB item from its meeting agenda for December 12, 2001.

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