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Bluetooth SIG works on draft UWB spec

Posted: 01 May 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Loring Wirbel? Bluetooth? Special Interest Group? SIG? UWB?

Aiming to have a draft spec in the second half of 2007, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group will study Bluetooth profiles over UWB. A draft spec will allow chipsets supporting both connectivity options for personal-area networks to be developed by 2008.

Yoram Solomon, general manager of the consumer business unit at Texas Instruments Inc., said a first call for functional specs in the SIG will be followed by a formalized study group on Bluetooth-over-UWB. Many chip makers from the Bluetooth and UWB worlds, including TI, Cambridge Silicon Radio, Infineon Technologies and Freescale Semiconductor, are interested in developing dual-function chipsets.

Since the SIG has made no assumption about whether orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) or direct-sequence UWB will be used for Bluetooth profiles, developers in the modulation camps that recently dissolved IEEE 802 UWB efforts continue to pitch their respective solutions. But a wrinkle has arisen in potential applications for dual Bluetooth/UWB chipsets.

Near-term interest in UWB has narrowed to a focus on USB cable-replacement applications. The WiMedia Alliance, for example, has almost halted mention of UWB in favor of "Certified Wireless USB," referring to OFDM UWB use as a replacement for serial USB. Similarly, Freescale and component manufacturer Belkin Corp. are promoting their direct-sequence UWB solution as "cable-free USB."

First, legacy apps
Does this mean the dual-function chips will be used first in mobile handset or home network applications? Matthias Kindler, Infineon's director of marketing and business development for Bluetooth, said the first market for such devices will be legacy applications dominated by the mobile handset, and where Bluetooth connectivity exists.

Kristine Overlaur, North American technical marketing manager for Cambridge Silicon Radio, said that current consumption must be improved to entice handset developers toward a dual-function solution.

"Because Intel has been a prime player in behind the WiMedia Alliance, you see a real focus on the PC market," Overlaur said. "There are plenty of interesting home applications for Bluetooth and UWB together, so it makes sense for the PC market to develop first. But people need to remember that UWB is more than just wireless USB."

Kindler said consumer familiarity favors USB, since "everyone understands USB," while many end users could find IP-addressable UWB nodes or alternative physical topologies for UWB somewhat daunting.

An eventual chipset would require separate RF/IF chains for Bluetooth and UWB, but one microcontroller-based digital device could handle media-access and arbitration functions for both networks. Overlaur said today's UWB designs lack managers to assign channel bandwidths, so the Bluetooth-profile portion of a digital design could handle this for both networks.

TI's Solomon said common L2 network functions should make it straightforward to design the digital portion: "We see potential applications in all three of our major marketshandsets, consumer and residential gateways."

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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