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UWB forms base of wireless USB, 1394 efforts

Posted: 23 Feb 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:multiband ofdm? ultrawideband? uwd? wireless?

Members of the Multiband OFDM Alliance said its upcoming ultrawideband (UWB) specification will form the basis for a common radio that serves wireless USB, 1394 and potentially other interfaces.

The news, announced at the Intel Developer Forum Wednesday (February 18, 2004), further stretches the rift in UWB approaches between Motorola and the MBOA. In an effort to resolve their differences, the two sides are currently testing the interference characteristics of MBOA at an independent Colorado lab, a job that could take several weeks if not months.

Pushing ahead with product plans, the 60-member MBOA announced it is forming a formal special interest group to issue a specification for its media access controller and physical-layer chips by May. The WiMedia Alliance, a separate industry group aimed at interoperability testing for UWB and the wide-area 802.16 technology, said it will deliver this summer a software abstraction layer that will let USB, 1394 and other protocols ride on the MBOA MAC.

Agere Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Philips and Samsung were among about a dozen companies forming a wireless USB promoters group announced here. Their USB protocol for the UWB radio will be available at the end of the year. Separately, the 1394 Trade Association is already taking to ballot a version of its protocol geared for the MBOA technology.

"It was quite a lot of work to pull all these organizations and players together at the same time," said Pat Gelsinger, chief technology officer at Intel who hosted the joint announcements.

Wireless USB will support 480Mbps transfers over 4m and 110Mbps over 10m. The wireless 1394a spec supports data rates up to 400Mbps.

Proponents see wireless USB as a multimedia interconnect that could be broadly embraced by consumer and computer systems including PCs, digital cameras and camcorders and MP3 players. OEMs see design efficiencies in leveraging one UWB radio for wireless USB, 1394 and potentially other future uses.

"We actually slowed down work on some of the upper layer protocols [such as wireless USB and 1394] because we wanted this abstraction layer," said Mark Fidler, a scientist in HP's printer group who is leading the development of the software in the WiMedia Alliance.

"Once we have this software layer put down, we can use a common radio architecture as a standard on our boards in such a way that prevents otherwise competing data streams from breaking each other," Fidler said.

The WiMedia abstraction layer will also provide some management features for quality of service. The MBOA spec will support time reservations for quality of service.

Jeff Ravencraft, an Intel R&D manager who heads the wireless USB group, said he has also been in contact with the Bluetooth Special Interest Group about leveraging the MBOA radio. "We think when they go to their high data rate specification they should use this," he said.

By broadening its constituency of users, the MBOA could bolster its chances of someday getting its spec accepted by the IEEE ultrawideband committee. However, the current testing in Colorado is a more likely venue for resolving key allegations from Motorola that the MBOA spec generates too much interference.

Fidler said the testing started in early February. Preliminary results could be available in a few weeks. However, a thorough testing of all available radios and environments could take up to nine months, he added.

Last year Motorola acquired startup Xtreme Spectrum that has a UWB product using an approach different from that of the MBOA. The chip was widely demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. A Motorola spokesman was not immediately available.

Eventually, the MBOA hopes to take its ad hoc spec to the IEEE for formal blessing as a standard, said Yoram Solomon, general manager of the consumer networking group at Texas Instruments. "We realized the IEEE is blocked on this issue, so we are completing the standard on our own," Solomon said. "We can't wait for the deadlock to be resolved, but we will bring the spec back to the IEEE once this is resolved," he added.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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