Wireless USB ready by Christmas

The wireless replacement for USB will be ready by Christmas and without the IEEE, a leading group promoting ultrawideband...

The wireless replacement for USB will be ready by Christmas and without standards body the IEEE, a leading group promoting ultrawideband technology has promised.

The spec will be formally launched today in a move that finally puts ultrawideband standardisation outside the IEEE's formal process, where it has been deadlocked for two years.

"Is Bluetooth a standard? Is USB a standard?" asked Mark Bowles, vice-president of marketing at Staccato Communications, explaining the need to go it alone. "They were both formed outside the IEEE."

Bowles is a leading light in the Multi-Band OFDM Alliance (MBOA) special interest group announced last month, which complained that its standard proposal was blocked in the IEEE by the Motorola-based Freescale proposal.

MBOA intends to deliver a full physical layer 1.0 specification to its 170 members. The technology is available under the reasonable and non-discriminatory terms required by a formal standard. At present the cheapest way to get the specification will be to join the group, whose membership fees start at $2,000 (£1,400).

The group will then produce a media access control layer specification by the end of December by a formal standard, but gets its formal launch today with the publication of the specification for the physical layer of an ultrawideband connection. Above the media access control layer, "real" networking protocols will be implemented on a protocol layer from the Wimedia group. A wireless USB specification is due by the end of this year, along with TCP/IP protocols running directly on the media access control layer.

But all this doesn't get the MBOA group out of the regulatory mire, as it is still waiting for confirmation that its standard complies with the FCC's regulations. These rules are simple in essence: ultrawideband is allowed as long as its emissions fall below the noise level permitted from consumer electronics devices. However, the way in which those emissions are measured is at issue in a petition originally put in by MBOA's rivals, Motorola and XtremeSpectrum.

"It is an easy issue to cloud," said Bowles. "They said we were frequency-hopping but we are not. They have twisted the meaning of frequency-hopping." Bowles expects the FCC to rule in favour of MBOA within the next few months, and certainly before products start to ship.

MBOA-based chips should be available in volume by the middle of 2005, and in products which offer wireless USB by the end of 2005, he says.

Peter Judge writes for Techworld

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