Optical/IP Networks

UWB Standards Split?

The chances that a single ultrawideband radio specification will emerge from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards process anytime soon look close to zero today, after members of the venerable engineering body again voted themselves into deadlock.

At an IEEE meeting in Albuquerque yesterday the technical proposal from the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA) -- a group that includes Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) -- gained 96 out of 168 votes (57 percent) in a ballot of members of the IEEE Task Group 802.15.3a, thereby falling short of the 75 percent majority required to exclude an alternative proposal from a Motorola-backed consortium.

At earlier meetings support was split rougly 60/40 in favor of the MBOA porposal. For more info on this see UWB in Limbo.

The Task Group is charged with defining a universal standard for ultrawideband (UWB) radios capable of at least 110 Mbit/s over a distance of 10 meters using the 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz band for TVs, cell phones, PCs, and so forth. However the likelihood that the process will now bifurcate into two competing standards is increasing by the day, since both groups say they are fully committed to their chosen technical development paths and will press ahead independently of the IEEE.

“We’re not going to back off the product roadmap," says Omid Tehernia, vice president of the wireless and mobile systems group at Motorola Semiconductor. "We’re going to accelerate it.”

Referring to Motorola’s recent deal to pick up assets, intellectual property, and 50-odd employees from XtremeSpectrum Inc. (see: Moto Snaps Up UWB Play), Tahernia said the time is now right to “throw Motorola resources” at Xtreme’s technology. The roadmap promises to deliver commercial volumes of Xtreme’s chipset -- capable of 110 Mbit/s over short distances -- to consumer electronics customers in the first quarter of 2004, with a 500-Mbit/s 2-chip product expected by the middle of 2005.

Meanwhile, the MBOA remains adamant that a single standard is required, and appears to be exasperated and annoyed at Motorola’s conduct. For example, documents presented at a private MBOA meeting last night alledge that Motorola/XtremeSpectrum breached a non-disclosure agreement with Intel related to behind-the-scenes work on interference and performance comparisons.

The same presentation alledges that Motorola’s intention is to delay the standard and to force an industry split. Several MBOA members have also said that they think Motorola intends to try and take an early lead in the market to establish a de facto standard.

Undeterred by this, the MBOA has outlined its own roadmap that will see Release 0.9 of its spec published in February 2004 and Release 1.0 in May 2004. Several MBOA members (Staccato Communications Inc. and Wisair Ltd., among them) say they’ll be sampling well before the end of 2004, while general availability of MBOA products is anticipated in 2005.

In an email to Unstrung before the vote, Bob Heile, chair of the 802.15.3a Task Group, said that if the IEEE process fails to produce a result in a “reasonable period of time,” special interest groups might form to create their own specifications. But he warned strongly against this eventuality, saying: “My mission is to insure that the consensus process works, as it is the best method to create a consistent, viable solution and avoid market confusion.”

— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

standardsarefun 12/5/2012 | 2:42:38 AM
re: UWB Standards Split? vinoopj said: "We haven't seen such a standoff in any major standardisation activity recently"

Actually we are just at the end game phase of a massive standoff over VDSL standards last year so I carn't agree with you that "this sort of thing doesn't happen these days".

Basically whenever people want to fight and the two sides can play "mutual blocking tactics" (neither side can generate the required 71% or whatever positive vote) then you will get this sort of standoff.

There is really very few possible outcomes for this sort of fight:

1) the two sides reach a "stupid" compromise and both options are included into the standard and then either the market ignores one or everyone has to implement both (TO BE AVOIDED WHENEVER POSSIBLE)

2) one side finally gives up since their greater fear is option 1 above (CLEVER PEOPLE!)

3) the operators finally take sides and get "very cross" with who ever is blocking their "newly discovered" favourite option (AND WHY DIDN'T THEY GET INVOLVED EARLIER!!!!)

4) a third solution appears (often in another standards body) and everyone goes for it (OH IT's SAD HOW OFTEN THIS HAPPENS...)

5) Senior management of one of the main vocal players finally get presented the "big picture", screams, sacks the main trouble maker, and the other option (which is often the one that is better for the company anyway!) wins (AND WE ALL KNOW THE CASE I'M TALKING ABOUT, DON'T WE...)

Just remember, these fights are NEVER solved by calm technical argument since the issue is not technical (or at least is isn't anymore...). This is pure politics and you will never solve it until everyone at least admits that sad fact.

Sjefshausseren 12/5/2012 | 2:39:57 AM
re: UWB Standards Split? Hvve any of you people seen this one?

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vinoopj 12/4/2012 | 11:14:32 PM
re: UWB Standards Split? This news came in as bit of a surprise. We havent seen such a standoff in any major standardisation activity recently. Companies have been held their position, but eventually moved into a consensus based on technical comparison. Wonder whether any comprehensive study has been done between the two technologies (they have done it, but dont think it is good enough). I think they should take a time off and come back with comparitive data. If this standoff continues, it is not going to help the industry.
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