Ecma to Promote UWB Standard

By Jeff Goldman

August 17, 2005

The WiMedia Alliance wants to turn its MB-OFDM-based ultrawideband into a global standard before the competition, perhaps forcing some consolidation.

Earlier this week, the WiMedia Alliance announced that it had begun working with the Geneva-based nonprofit industry association Ecma International to establish WiMedia’s multiband orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (MB-OFDM) ultrawideband (UWB) technology as the global UWB standard.

In the past, Ecma International has successfully promoted standards for DVD interchange and Near Field Communication, among others.

The WiMedia Alliance sees the establishment of a single, global, interoperable standard for UWB as essential to the success of the technology itself. According to Roberto Aiello, secretary of the WiMedia Alliance Board of Directors, the agreement with Ecma represents a significant step toward that goal.

“This will help in promoting the WiMedia specification in the international community,” Aiello says. “It’s also going to be of help to European regulations, given that Ecma [standards] often are adopted as ETSI standards in Europe.”

Ecma was chosen for this effort, Aiello says, because many of the larger companies that are members of the WiMedia Alliance are also members of Ecma. “The fact that Ecma is a body that these companies have used for previous standards makes them comfortable with it,” he says. “They feel it’s a reputable organization that can help in supporting and maintaining the specification as it moves forward.”

With the forward progress indicated by this announcement, Aiello says, the stalemate currently in place at the IEEE between the WiMedia Alliance and the UWB Forum may be nudged toward a resolution. “The fact that Ecma has decided to publish the WiMedia specification as a standard, I think, is a sign that the industry at large considers OFDM a good solution,” he says. “So I think the people at IEEE may see this positively, as a technology that is a good fit.”

What’s more, Aiello insists, the UWB standards that are currently competing with MB-OFDM are both limited and proprietary. “The WiMedia specification is supported by virtually all the companies that matter,” he says. “There are some companies that have proprietary solutions, and they are following their own product development. Freescale is one of them, and Freescale has set up the UWB Forum to promote their own proprietary solution.”

Still, WiMedia recognizes that it is worthwhile to work toward the establishment of a universal standard. “Obviously, we would like to have a harmonized standard so that consumers have a better experience when they buy products,” Aiello says. “The problem of connecting personal devices at high speed in a short range is obviously one problem, which should be solved with one solution.”

Currently, Aiello says, the WiMedia Alliance is working with Ecma to fit the MB-OFDM specification to Ecma’s format, with the expectation that Ecma will approve and publish the specification by the end of the year. “We have many, many companies developing silicon right now, and we want to make sure they’re all interoperable,” he says. “We’re looking forward to starting to ship products very soon from more than one vendor, so that the standard becomes ubiquitous. Interoperability is our next big task here, because that’s really what makes a standard: multiple vendors with interoperable products.”

While a number of vendors are promising to release products in 2006, Aiello says he can’t comment on the time-line. “We’re not going to drive the time-line for products,” he says. “We’re just going to make sure we have the structure in place to enable silicon companies to be compliant and interoperable, get the logo – and ship products.”



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