UWB wireless strategy takes shape

Future Ultra Wide Band (UWB) technology-based products built on a standards based platform will enable high-speed transfer of multimedia content between devices in the home or office, at lower costs and without the hassle of wires.

Future UWB technology-based products built on a standards based platform will enable high-speed transfer of multimedia content between devices in the home or office, at lower costs and without the hassle of wires.

UWB is a wireless radio technology for transmitting data between consumer electronics, PC peripherals and mobile devices within short range at very high speeds, while consuming little power. It is suited for wireless transfer of high-quality multimedia content, such as wirelessly streaming videos from a digital video recorder to a high-definition television or wirelessly connecting a mobile PC to a projector in a conference room to deliver a presentation.

UWB uses a wide band of the radio frequency spectrum to transmit data within a short range (such as in the home or small office), allowing for greater amounts of data to be wirelessly transmitted in a given period of time than more traditional wireless technologies. This capability, combined with low-power and pulsed data delivery provides increased speed when transferring data without additional interference from other wireless technologies already in use, such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and cellular wide-area communications.

To drive the effort to standardize USB specifications, Intel engineers are now working with a variety of PC, consumer electronics and cellular communications industries to develop a standard UWB radio platform. The platform itself is made up of two core ‘layers’: The UWB radio layer and the convergence layer serve as the underlying transport mechanism for different applications that would operate on top of the single radio, such as wireless universal serial bus (USB), IEEE 1394, the next generation of Bluetooth and Universal Plug and Play.

The UWB radio layer is currently being developed by the Multi-band OFDM Alliance (MBOA), a special interest group made up of more than 60 companies in the PC, consumer electronics and cellular communication industries. The MBOA is creating a complete specification for a multi-band orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology-based solution for the physical (PHY) layer, the media access controller layer, and the interface in between for UWB radio technology.

The MBOA specification calls for throughput rates of up to 480 Mbit/sec within relatively short distances.

Given the wide range of devices that will take advantage of UWB wireless technology, a practical scheme for multiple application support is crucial. For that reason, the WiMedia Alliance, an industry group, is developing a common abstraction layer for the UWB radio platform that will enable multiple applications, such as Wireless USB, 1394 or Bluetooth to run on one common radio. This software layer will sit on top of the UWB radio to allow for interoperability between applications.

To maintain the same usage and architecture as wired USB, the Wireless USB Promoter Group is defining the wireless USB specification as a high-speed host-to-device connection. This will enable a migration path for today’s wired USB solutions. The Wireless USB Promoter Group announced this week that it will use the WiMedia Alliance common abstraction layer for the UWB radio platform and the MBOA specification for the PHY and MAC layers of the UWB radio as the foundation for its wireless implementation of USB.

With the standardization of a common UWB platform, device manufacturers in the PC, mobile, and consumer electronics markets will be able to easily use UWB as the radio or transport mechanism, taking advantage of the low power and high bandwidth this technology provides.