Nokia Gets Ultrawide
Sources say the world's largest cellphone manufacturer will back the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), which already numbers Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) among its supporters. A group led by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and XtremeSpectrum Inc. is pushing a rival technology.
The aim of the IEEE 802.15.3a task group is to lay down a technological base for a UWB radio standard capable of transmitting data at 110 Mbit/s or more over a minimum distance of 10 meters using the huge 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz frequency band, without exceeding strict power emission thresholds set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The eventual standard is likely to be applied to UWB chipsets, which are expected to have better overall price, power, form-factor and data-rate metrics than either Bluetooth or 802.11 wireless LAN chipsets for certain wireless applications in PCs, mobile phones, digital TVs, and the like.
This process is currently deadlocked, because support is split roughly 60 percent in favor of the MBOA proposal and 40 percent in favor of the Motorola-backed spec. The IEEE requires a proposal to have 75 percent support before work begins on an official draft.
However, the hope is that the stalemate will be broken as 140-odd engineers [ed. note: plus one or two who aren't all that odd] gain voting privileges at the group's next meeting in Albuquerque, which, according to the IEEE minutes, could bring the total number of eligible voters to somewhere around 250 to 300.
Both sides claim that this influx of new blood could benefit them.
“The voter profile of the group will change in Albuquerque,” says Chris Fisher, vice president of marketing at Xtreme Spectrum, “and a lot of those getting rights will be customer-community engineers that haven’t yet disclosed their hand. We think many of the fresh voters will be favorable to us.
“We’ve had products in commercial evaluation for over nine months now, and you’ll see the first commercial ultrawideband consumer products at the next Consumer Electronics Show,” explains Fisher. “The MBOA want to use the standards process to completely remove us from the market because we have such a time-to-market advantage.”
Mark Bowles, vice president of marketing at Staccato Communications Inc. (a founding member of the MBOA), agrees that the new voters will be important but believes the odds are stacked in favor of the MBOA. “The six largest consumer electronics companies on the planet vote for MBOA, and I think the super majority of new voters are MBOA supporters,” says Bowles. “The challenge is that for every ‘no’ voter, we need to get three ‘yes’ voters.”
— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung