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UWB: Lord of the PHYsUWB: Lord of the PHYs

Which ultrawideband standard will rule? Maybe both, says Motorola

March 4, 2004

2 Min Read
UWB: Lord of the PHYs

In an attempt to break the deadlocked Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) ultrawideband radio standards process, a special “ad-hoc” meeting of members of the IEEE 802.15.3a Task Group met in California last week to try and thrash out a solution. (See UWB Standards Split? for more background on the UWB standards process.)

The so-called “Compromise Proposal” attempts to resolve intractable differences between the Multiband OFDM Proposal (supported by Texas Instruments Inc., Intel Corp., and others) and the “Direct Sequence CDMA proposal (led by Motorola Inc.), by introducing a “Common Signaling Protocol” that would allow multiple UWB radios (PHYs) to operate in the same area without interfering with one another.

The common signaling protocol was developed by West Coast startup Pulse-Link Inc. and was originally submitted to the IEEE several months ago -- without much fanfare. Now, says Motorola, the protocol could go someway to resolving the standards impasse.

“Both PHYs are going to get to market,” says Martin Roftheart, director of UWB at Motorola. “But rather than export the dysfunction of the standard bodies to the market, we want hooks in the standard so that equipment manufacturers can choose their PHY.

“For embedded and consumer devices, one-size-fits-all doesn’t work,” he argues. “Co-existence [of PHYs] will not confuse the market because the interoperability guarantee for consumers comes from the electronics vendor’s brand.”

“This compromise is very viable and involves a trivial amount of extra work,” adds John Barr, director of standards at Motorola, “It’s a terrific technical solution to a difficult business problem that will define a future-proof [UWB] radio architecture.”

The Multiband OFDM group, however, is not convinced (none of them showed up at meeting) and are sticking to their position of one PHY to rule them all [cultural ed. note: hmmm, so far this story has referenced the William Golding classic, The Lord of the Rings, and an Aerosmith song -- way to go, Gabe!]

“This compromise proposal may be a great intellectual debate for the standards engineers,” says Serdar Yurdakul, director of business development at Multiband OFDM supporter Wisair Ltd. “But such an approach will cause confusion, bad end-user experience [because of interoperability], and will hurt everyone by delaying the market. That’s what the consumer electronics companies are telling us.”

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider


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