By Jeff Goldman

January 10, 2005

High-speed ultrawideband is getting ready for primetime with exposure at the Consumer Electronics Show, including high def TV demos and combinations with powerline networking.

At last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), FOCUS Enhancements demonstrated transmission of high definition television through a wall using ultrawideband (UWB) technology.

"This is our first public display of what we can do," says Mike Kelly, vice president of marketing for the company's Semiconductor Group.

FOCUS's aim, Kelly says, is to work within the MultiBand OFDM standard while maximizing the technology's speed and distance for transmission of video. "We understand the significance of being part of a standard," he says. "You can be good at what you're doing, but if it's not universally adopted, then you're only as good as the little niche that you can carve in the market."

Kelly says there's currently no strong solution in the marketplace for distributing wireless throughout the home—leaving an opening for ultrawideband. "We've seen lots of different applications that have been developed, whether they be RF video or 802.11 video, and find all of those technologies lacking in the ability to supply what we believe consumers want, which is uninterrupted, perfect video," he says.

The company expects to sample UWB chipsets in mid-2005, and modules containing UWB chipsets towards the end of the year. "The demand on the video application set is going to be a taxing set of goals, and the radios and the configuration are going to have to be tweaked and looked at—so I think it'll take a little bit longer than just being able to do wireless," Kelly says.

In maximizing the speed and range of ultrawideband technology, Kelly says, FOCUS aims to expand the definition of a personal area network. "We believe that personal area networks can proliferate a home, so we're targeting a longer distance—we think that 25 meters is a very nice sweet spot for distance—and we're looking for higher rates," he says. "We will provide with our chipset very, very high rates—880 Mbps at distances up to about eight meters."

Alternatively, Kelly says, the company's chips will provide about 200 Mbps speeds over longer distances—up to 25 meters.

"We feel that's a good mix of rate and range that will lend itself well to video distribution where you might want to do one, two, three or four channels of HD distribution simultaneously to several rooms in the house," he says. "So we're looking at that as our fulcrum, but we can also do faster over shorter distances, and slower over longer distances."

Also at CES, powerline technology provider Intellon announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics and Freescale Semiconductor, and demonstrated its ability to distribute multiple high definition content streams simultaneously using different technologies. The companies' combined technologies can be used to allow different displays to receive content at the same time—one, say, through powerline, and the other using ultrawideband.

Using such a network, powerline could provide wired connectivity, with ultrawideband serving any devices that need to access the network wirelessly. "It allows you to set up a hybrid network where you've got regional clusters of different protocols, in this case ultrawideband, but using the powerline as the wired backbone within the home," says Andy Melder, Intellon's senior vice president of Strategy and Business Development.

Consumer products using this technology, Melder says, should be available in early 2006. "The whole premise here is that, in the networked home, the expectation on the part of the consumer is to have a very stable, robust network," he says. "Delivering video to a display, you want that video to be rock solid—you don't want to have any type of breakup in video quality. So if you're going to be distributing content around the home, you have to pick a network backbone that's going to be stable and robust."

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