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UWBers Get Busy in Texas

The world’s top ultrawideband engineers sharpened their pencils and got down (owwww!) to detail at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) ultrawideband standards meeting in Dallas this week. The meeting was a warmup for the IEEE 802.15.3a Task Group’s first "down select" vote in July, when the real fireworks are expected to go off and most of the 23 companies that have proposed standards will either have to merge with their allies or face being voted out (see: UWB Standards Shakedown). The down select works a bit like the Big Brother TV show, where the least popular contestants get voted out of the game until finally there's just the winner left.

So far three major UWB camps have emerged:
  • The Multi-Band Coalition (see Coalition Cranks Up UWB)
  • The Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) approach
  • The wideband CDMA-type proposal
Proponents of all these approaches claim they can readily meet the IEEE Task Group’s minimum requirement for an ultrawideband radio capable of 110 Mbit/s over a distance of 10 meters.

Anuj Batra of Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) (an OFDM supporter) describes the process as "still wide open" because "there have been absolutely no mergers so far."

"What’s really good about this meeting is that we’ve now received enough detail to start comparing the proposals,” adds Batra. He says this means that they can now go away and try to verify each other’s claims for high-speed, low-power, small-form-factor, and low-cost UWB chipsets.

Jason Ellis of General Atomics, (a leading multi-band supporter) says the UWB Multi-Band Coalition intends to make a merged proposal at the July meeting in San Francisco.

Hinting at controversy to come, TI's Batra says the fact that the multi-band group hasn't already merged its proposals is a way for the individual companies to keep their options open for a while longer.

However, Ellis believes there has been a fundamental shift in the UWB arena toward multi-band. He says there was “standing room only” when over 100 people attended the Philips Electronics NV-hosted Multi-Band Coalition meeting on the fringes of the official IEEE 802.15.3a conference on Tuesday evening.

It is unclear if the free drinks or the stimulating technical discussion was responsible for the big boffin turnout.

— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

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