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Intel outlines plans for development of a UWB framework
Posted on 22-Feb-2004 21:24 | Filed under: News

Intel has outlined its plans to drive the development of a common platform for ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless technology. The company expects future UWB technology-based products built on this platform to 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 ideally suited for wireless transfer of high-quality multimedia content, such as wirelessly streaming family videos from the digital video recorder to a high-definition television in the living room or wirelessly connecting a mobile PC to a projector in a conference room to deliver a presentation.

"As the convergence of computing, communications and consumer electronics becomes more prevalent in people's lives, there is a need for high-speed, interoperable wireless communications between devices that also brings the benefits of volume economics to users," said Pat Gelsinger, Intel senior vice president and chief technology officer. "For Intel, this means driving the industry toward a common standards-based platform for UWB wireless technology that enables multiple applications to run on one common radio, and devices to easily and wirelessly communicate with each other."

UWB technology 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.

As part of its effort to develop technologies and industry standards to help create a more advanced digital home and office experience for users, Intel engineers are working with a wide variety of the PC, consumer electronics and cellular communications industries to develop a standard UWB radio platform. The platform 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 multi-band OFDM approach allows for coexistence with flexible spectral coverage, future scalability and backward compatibility and utilizes standard CMOS technology to take advantage of the principles of Moore's Law. In addition, the MBOA specification calls for throughput rates of up to 480 Mbps within relatively short distances. The multi-band OFDM UWB specification will be targeted at emerging wireless personal area network communications that enable high-speed, short range, cable-free interconnects for a wide array of multimedia consumer electronics, PC peripherals, and mobile devices.

Given the wide range of devices that will take advantage of UWB wireless technology, a practical scheme for multiple application support is crucial for achieving ease-of-use, and reliability in the digital home and office environments. Intel recently joined the WiMedia* Alliance, an industry group that 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.

Wireless USB is a high-speed wireless interconnect application that will take advantage of UWB technology. To maintain the same usage and architecture as wired USB, the Wireless USB Promoter Group*, of which Intel is a leading member, is defining the wireless USB specification as a high-speed host-to-device connection. This will enable an easy 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. Intel believes the broadly supported MBOA, WiMedia Alliance and Wireless USB Promoter Group will enable commercial development of UWB standards-based products as early as 2005. Through cooperative work with many other key industry players in the CE, PC, mobile and wireless segments as well as these industry groups, Intel is creating an ecosystem for UWB enabled devices.

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