Freescale Demos Phones with UWB

By Eric Griffith

February 18, 2005

These handsets do not have voice over IP, but the chipmaker says the possibility is there. Just don't expect to see these prototypes in your hand anytime soon.

Ultrawideband silicon maker Freescale Semiconductor of Austin, Texas continues to show off its high-speed wireless capabilities in phones. This started back at the Consumer Electronics Show in January with a demo of a prototype Motorola phone using UWB to download and upload files like MP3s and photos.

This week, the company did essentially the same thing at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, only the phone was from Samsung. After using the camera phone to take a picture, the image was then sent via UWB to a laptop to be displayed. The high speed of UWB got the image transferred in under one second, according to the company.

Martin Rofheart, Freescale's director of UWB operations, says the phones are simply product concepts at this point, and such units will not be available for consumer use until early 2006 at best.

The phones are also not designed as yet to handle voice traffic on the UWB network. Rofheart says they support TCP/IP traffic on the UWB (essentially FTP over TCP/IP to transfer files at this point), but adds that adding voice over IP functions will be "no challenge." However, hand-off of calls from a cellular WAN to a UWB LAN with these prototypes isn't possible yet, and is "not the focus of these activities."

Freescale's UWB chips were the first to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for commercial multimedia use. This happened last year, just after Freescale split from Motorola to become a separate, publicly-traded company. Both companies are members of the UWB Forum, which pushes the DS-UWB "standard." Another group, the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), is pushing another flavor of UWB. Recently, Pulse~LINK, which is ostensibly a member of the UWB Forum, introduced a third potential version of UWB.

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