Ofcom Publishes UWB Proposal

Ofcom publishes its proposed policy for Ultra Wideband devices in the UK

January 13, 2005

3 Min Read

LONDON -- Ofcom today published its proposed policy in respect of the use of Ultra Wideband (UWB) devices in the UK, which Ofcom plans to adopt as part of ongoing discussions within Europe on a harmonised approach to UWB. Independent analysis has pointed to potential benefits for UK businesses and consumers were UWB devices to be allowed.

Ofcom is seeking views on whether such devices should be allowed, and also which technical restrictions would mitigate the risk of interference to other wireless services. Ofcom has set out proposals for such technical restrictions, and is also undertaking further analysis to determine the likely impact of any introduction of UWB technology on specific existing and future services.

Ofcom is required, under Section 3 of the Communications Act 2003, to secure the optimal use of the spectrum and secure the availability throughout the UK of a wide range of services. Section 4 of the 2003 Act requires Ofcom to promote competition and contribute to the development of the European internal market. Under Section 154 of the 2003 Act, Ofcom must also have regard to economic and other benefits that may arise from the use of wireless telegraphy.


UWB devices transmit signals simultaneously over a wide range of frequencies and are therefore capable of a far higher data transfer rate than devices using similar wireless technologies.

UWB devices could, for example:

  • Deliver wireless connections between DVD players, displays and speakers;

  • Provide a high speed wireless link between digital cameras and computers; and

  • Link PCs, printers and storage devices in a local area network.

UWB is already allowed in the UK under licence to allow engineers to probe runways and other surfaces for faults, help firefighters detect people through walls and for other specialist industry uses.

Ofcom's initial view, on which it is seeking opinion, is that to allow UWB on a licence-exempt basis, and subject to appropriate technical restrictions, would align well with its statutory duties. An independent economic study, prepared by Mason Communications and DotEcon and also published today by Ofcom, has estimated that significant economic benefits are likely to result from UWB use for the UK economy.


Identification and exploration of measures to avoid harmful interference, particularly to services such as 3G mobile, wireless broadband and radio astronomy, are a key priority for Ofcom. Ofcom recognises that the potential for interference, and the likely level of any such interference, needs to be weighed carefully against the potential benefits of introducing UWB.

The Mason / DotEcon study proposes a technical 'mask' - a set of requirements that all UWB devices would have to adhere to - which Ofcom suggests would significantly reduce the risk of interference to most spectrum users. Ofcom is also commissioning further research into specific areas as indicated in the consultation document.


In February 2002 the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorised the commercial deployment of UWB equipment in the US. It is possible that UWB equipment licensed for use in the US may not be appropriate for use in the UK. Ofcom therefore wishes to finalise its approach to UWB as quickly as possible in order to give clarity to stakeholders in both countries.


In April 2005, the European Commission will consider initial work on identifying a harmonised approach to UWB adoption across Europe. Ofcom intends to use this consultation to gather opinion on its proposed approach so that it can input into subsequent European harmonisation work with the aim of reaching a pan-European position that is well aligned with the interests of the UK.

Office of Communications (Ofcom)

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