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International accord on UWB is crucial

Posted: 16 Jun 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ultrawideband? uwb? itu? earth exploration satellite service? spectrum?

Anderson: UWB will never become a substantial technology unless it is adopted globally.

Ultrawideband (UWB) will never become a substantial technology unless it is adopted globally. Granted, many large corporations and member states of the International Telecommunication Union have huge vested interests in their existing technologies and telecom infrastructure, involving trillions of dollars globally. Therefore, technologies that are seen as disruptive to existing ones are fiercely opposed.

UWB, in fact, is more a value-added technology than a threat to existing radio-communication services, but this has not been communicated well to the appropriate rule-making bodies. Because UWB is so new, with few market-ready devices thus far, the vital information needed to make prudent decisions on its adoption and usage is still trickling down.

The cellular industry claims that unwanted potential interference from UWB devices will degrade their networks; an increase in the transmission duty cycle, they say, will ultimately result in dropped calls and network overload. This is a legitimate concern, but one that many experts have proven unfounded.

The satellite industry, mainly the Earth Exploration Satellite Service (EESS), is concerned that the potential interference from just a few devices in relative proximity to theirs will cause degradation to their systems. The UWB industry has fiercely contested that assumption for several reasons. First, there has been no real-world testing; rather, tests have relied on modeled data that was manipulated to gain a desired resulti.e. to show harmful interference. While the EESS industry's concerns are legitimate, the issue needs to be addressed with hard facts.

Satellite-borne passive sensor networks provide us with environmental data in order to predict our weather patterns. This is a hotly contested issue, since any degradation to this system could have global implications, including the possibility for loss of life due to inaccurate or untimely predictions. The main point of contention here is that since this sensor network is so sensitive, any rise in the noise floor due to UWB devices would result in harmful interference.

However, the criteria used are highly suspect because the device density, range of UWB transmission, terrain and PSD seem to be miscalculated and based on inaccurate assumptions. Activity factor modeling, as opposed to modeling naturally radiating phenomena, has been proposed to put this contentious subject in perspective.

This is an important issue that needs to be addressed with hard facts and a correct, agreed-upon modeling methodology. There may be less room for error here than in other areas.

All in all, we are on the right path and need to stay on course. The primary uses for UWB in other parts of the spectrum not shown in the graphs are collision-avoidance radar on the high-end between 25GHz and 27GHz, and location/low-data-rate applications on the lower-end below 3.1GHz. There has been less contention with these uses, as the clearing and reallocation of spectrum resources have helped alleviate concerns of potential harmful interference.

Especially at the low-end of the spectrum, however, the requested protection seems uncharacteristically conservative, since no harmful interference has yet been confirmed by use of UWB in this part of the spectrum. The fact that transmissions are well below the noise floor, and thus are hardly detectable, seems to go overlooked.

This is why it is important for interested parties to become involved in the ITU process. Your involvement could be the voice of reason; your technical contribution or input might make all the difference.

- Gary Anderson
Chairman and CEO
Uraxs Inc.

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