UWB Hits High Speeds

By Jeff Goldman

November 22, 2004

Chipmaker Alereon has completed over-the-air demonstrations in their system lab with speeds they say are 2.5x other ultrawideband solutions.

Last week, Alereon announced that it had completed over-the-air demonstrations of ultrawideband technology in their system lab, in compliance with Multi-Band OFDM Alliance specifications, at speeds of 480 Mbps and 320 Mbps.

"We believe this significant accomplishment gives our customers a two and a half times speed advantage over other solutions," says company CEO Eric Broockman.

Broockman says the purpose of the announcement was to highlight the fact that Alereon has achieved speeds far beyond the minimums required for UWB. "In the IEEE standards activity, the minimum requirement for the personal area network is 100 Mbps, with a 'desirable' of getting to 200, and an extension to 480—and the MBOA SIG proposal has data rates from 55 to 200 which are mandatory, and then optional rates above 200 Mbps," he says. "So for our first chipset that we're demonstrating now, we actually implemented not only the mandatory rates but all the higher data rates as well."

Kurt Scherf, Vice President and Principal Analyst at the research firm Parks Associates, says it's "exciting to see that immediately on the heels of the initial release of the MBOA-SIG ultrawideband specification we already have an over-the-air demonstration that meets the full 480 Mbps bandwidth."

In addition to the high speeds, Broockman says the demonstration also provides an opportunity to point out the strengths of Multi-Band OFDM over DS-UWB as an ultrawideband standard. With a broader range of members, Broockman says, Multi-Band OFDM offers a more reliable solution. "For any standard to be successful, you need a complete ecosystem," he says. "You need multiple chip suppliers before an OEM is going to be able to feel comfortable using it."

In its announcement, Alereon didn't mention the distances over which the higher speeds can be achieved—Broockman says that's because they're still being determined.

"We're still fully characterizing it in multiple environments," he says. "One environment in our test lab may not represent the average that people might have in a living room, a den, a cubicle setup, etc. We believe that it's going to meet the intent of the MBOA SIG specifications once we've completed all that, but it takes many, many months to do all that characterization."

Regardless of the speeds and distances that ultrawideband can cover, Broockman says he sees the technology being used primarily for cable replacement. "I do anticipate that the effective distance for ultrawideband will get longer through mesh technology, but nonetheless, I continue to see it more as a clever cable replacement than I do a real alternative to wireless LANs," he says. "Your readers who care about Wi-Fi shouldn't be all that worried about ultrawideband replacing it. In fact, ultrawideband will generate more bandwidth [enough to] feed all the Wi-Fi links."



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