Consumer Ultrawideband: Coming Soon

By Jeff Goldman

February 16, 2005

One analyst thinks UWB is uniquely suited to be the ultimate in-home cable replacement technology—and doesn't think the lack of a standard will hurt the market at all.

A white paper published by the research firm Parks Associates takes an optimistic view of the prospects for successful deployment of ultrawideband (UWB) technology in the coming year, despite the inability of the IEEE to get the consensus needed to set a single standard. Analyst Kurt Scherf, the author, says significant UWB product announcements can be expected before the end of the year.

The paper, entitled "The Market for Ultra-Wideband Solutions," assesses the hype that has been attached to the technology for the past few years, and examines UWB's potential applications. The unique strengths of the technology, Scherf says, include its low power consumption, high quality of service, and high data rates—all of which make it particularly appropriate for cable replacement in the home between consumer electronics platforms, computer peripherals, and mobile devices.

From 2005 to 2008, Scherf suggests, the UWB market will shift from an initial focus on PCs and peripherals to devices like digital cameras, camcorders, and MP3 players, then finally to fixed consumer electronics platforms like HDTV receivers and set-top boxes. In the meantime, he says, UWB could well become a standard on all PC motherboards in the near future. "As a cable replacement solution, UWB will certainly fill a valued role in creating multimedia 'clusters' that are easier to configure and eliminate the 'rat's next' of cabling associated with the home entertainment ecosystem today," the paper states.

Meanwhile, the MultiBand OFDM Alliance and the UWB Forum, which supports DS-UWB, continue to fight for conflicting UWB standards. But Scherf says their differences may not have as negative an effect as some expect.

"The perception out there is that this industry is wringing its hands, but I think many, many companies have moved beyond the fact that IEEE standardization is not going to happen at this point in time," he says. "The game right now is getting the products out to market."

Scherf is hesitant to pick sides in the standards battle, though he does say the MultiBand OFDM Alliance appears to have a strategic advantage thanks to the number of chipset manufacturers and consumer electronics manufacturers backing it.

"They should have the leg up, but what all of us analysts are anxiously waiting to see is which manufacturers are going to take the next step to implement and integrate those products," he says. "We can all sit back and say one side should do this or that, but we can always be surprised, too."

Much of Scherf's optimism regarding the technology in general is due to the nature of the specific problems that UWB is intended to solve, particularly cable replacement for short-range connections in the home. "Our take on the market is that portable devices are really going to play a critical part in the multimedia experience that consumers have in and around the home," he says. "For that space, an ultrawideband solution is ideally positioned to be the cable replacement."

Once the first end-user products ship in late 2005, Scherf suggests, the market is likely to grow fast, with annual UWB chipset revenues exceeding $1 billion by the end of 2009.

Originally published on .

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