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IEEE fails to break UWB deadlock, de facto spec looms

Posted: 14 Nov 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ieee 802.15.3a? multiband-ofdm alliance? uwb technology?

In a vote, the IEEE 802.15.3a task group failed again to break the deadlock over which proposal - the Multiband-OFDM Alliance's or a competing plan backed by Motorola and XtremeSpectrum - will form the basis for a short-range, high-rate data communications link based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology.

The failure during a meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., raises the likelihood that a de facto standard, independent of the IEEE, may well be the way forward for UWB.

After a down-selection process Monday that, as expected, left the Intel/Texas Instruments-led Multiband-OFDM Alliance (MBOA) as the only remaining proposal on the ballot, the proposal failed again to reach the crucial 75-percent approval that would confirm it. The final tally was 96 votes for the proposal, 69 against, with three abstentions.

According to Kursat Kimyacioglu, director of Wireless Business Development and Connectivity, at Philips Semiconductors, the group will now debate over the next day or so whether or not to vote again later this week.

The Albuquerque meeting was preceded by negotiations aimed at an unofficial meeting of the minds between the two camps. However, the possibility of such an agreement dimmed early Monday, said Kimyacioglu, with threats of legal action and Intel accusing Motorola of breaking non-disclosure agreements with respect to interference measurements.

The discussions ended in such rancor, according to Kimyacioglu, that an agreement may be out of reach this week. Such an outcome would increase the likelihood that one of the groups would create its own, de facto standard, which is seen by many as the worst possible outcome.

"We [the MBOA] will proceed with the development of a UWB specification, regardless of what the IEEE does, though we'll remain involved with the [IEEE] group," said Kimyacioglu. "In fact, we're going to present our timelines for those specifications and the development of chips compliant with that specification in a presentation [Tuesday night]," he added.

EE Times received an advance copy of that presentation which declared that Version 0.9 of the specification would be finished by February, with a final Version 1.0 completed by May. "We'll [MBOA] will be sampling silicon by Q4," Kimyacioglu said in the presentation, which also predicted development of MB-OFDM integrated modules by the first quarter of 2005 and MB-OFDM-based products by that year's second quarter.

ITU undecided

While some observers have said the MBOA proposal is viewed unfavorably by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), that may be a stretch, according to the Federal Communications Commission's Ron Chase, chairman of the U.S. task group 1/8. Case said it's much too early to say what the ITU's decision might be.

"They're still just looking at UWB in general and the various spectral masks that might be imposed, not the implementations," he said. "The MBOA-versus-DS-CDMA debate is very much a U.S.-centric debate." According to Chase, "the topic never even came up at the last [task group] meeting in Geneva, aside from a paper on OFDM from Israel."

- Patrick Mannion

EE Times

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