NYT on FCC's Part 15 deliberations over UWB

Rohit Khare (rohit@fdr.ICS.uci.edu)
Tue, 09 Feb 1999 15:06:34 -0800

[I got NOWHERE at interval.com searching for this purported report by Aiello.
No trace of an Aiello, no trace of radio research, nothing in publications.
Just a flashy site, the opposite of an academic research lab.

HOWEVER, these notes are considered so useful that the FCC granted an
exceptional extension: "On December 23, 1998, Interval Research Corporation
("Interval"), submitted to the Commission a motion for extension of time to
extend the reply comment deadline in the above captioned proceeding from
January 4, 1999 to February 3, 1999...Interval indicates that it is important
for the Commission to establish a complete and comprehensive record before
proceeding on to a Notice of Proposed Rule Making and that a thirty day
extension will assist the Commission in gaining a more meaningful record
without unduly delaying further action by the Commission. "

February 3 has come and gone. No public sign of this document.


PS. In the meantime, here's a good research srpingboard:
http://www.ee.umd.edu/~yag ]


December 21, 1998

FCC Mulls Wider Commercial Use of Radical Radio Technology


The [5]Federal Communications Commission is considering changing
its regulations to permit the use of a radical and controversial
communications technology that has the potential to make vastly
more efficient use of the increasingly precious radio spectrum.

Known variously as ultra-wide-band radio and digital pulse
wireless, the new technology has a broad range of possible
applications, from wireless voice and high-speed data
communications to land mine detection and advanced radar systems
that could permit law officers to see through walls or could aid
cars in avoiding collisions.

John Godbey for The New York Times

Ralph Petroff (left), president of Time Domain, and Larry
Fullerton, the company's chief technology officer.

Despite its potential, however, the technology is not in widespread
commercial use today because it would run afoul of FCC restrictions
that prohibit radio transmissions in certain frequencies set aside
for civilian aviation and military agencies.

That could change if the agency agrees to proposals made earlier
this month by three small companies that are pursuing the
technology for a variety of commercial products.

Unlike communications technologies that send information in analog
form, ultra-wide band uses a digital transmission consisting of
small on-off bursts of energy at extremely low power but over
almost the entire radio spectrum.

By precisely timing the pulses within accuracies up to a trillionth
of a second, the designers of ultra-wide-band radio systems are
able to create low-power communications systems that are almost
impossible to jam, tend to penetrate physical obstacles easily and
are almost invulnerable to eavesdropping.

[6]Time Domain Corp., based in Huntsville, Ala., has petitioned the
FCC for a waiver so that by the middle of next year, it can begin
selling a system that will permit police officers and special
weapons and tactics teams to see through walls and doors to detect
the location of people. The company is also planning a covert
communications system that will both carry voice communications and
display locations of a counter-terrorism or SWAT team's members.

"We are focusing on the safety systems because it has a great
public benefit and it's a good way to introduce the technology
where it can make a difference," said Ralph Petroff, the company's
chairman and chief executive.

Communicating Below a Whisper [7][LINK]

Several small companies are developing a technology that uses
low-power radio signals emitted at regular intervals across a broad
range of the radio spectrum for digital communications and radar
systems. Here is [8]how the technology works.

However, Time Domain executives as well as many experts familiar
with ultra-broad band believe the technology's real commercial
potential lies in extremely low-cost communications applications.
That would entail a fundamental shift in FCC regulations, a process
that could take years.

"When you take its attributes and compare it to the competition,
you have very interesting technology that could lead to awesome
possibilities," said Paul Turner, executive director of
PricewaterhouseCoopers' Global Technology Center in Menlo Park,

The most promising application for ultra-wide-band radio might
eventually be an alternative to today's wireless office network
technologies that are generally able to transmit data at rates of
between 1 and 3 million bits a second.

Because of its design, ultra-wide band advocates say the technology
has the potential to deliver vastly higher amounts of data because
a large number of transmitters could broadcast simultaneously in
close proximity without interfering with each other.

"The most promising applications are not so much as an alternative
to cellular telephone," said Lawrence Larson, an electrical
engineer at the University of California at San Diego. "It may
rather provide a much better way of doing short-range data
communications because it's very energy efficient."

The computer and communications industries have already settled on
a standard known as [9]Bluetooth for wireless connectivity in an
unlicensed frequency band at 2.4 gigahertz. Bluetooth, which can
send a million bits a second about 30 feet using 100 milliwatts
(about a tenth of a watt), is intended to interconnect devices like
palm computers, laptops and cellular phones.

In contrast, Time Domain's devices can currently transmit 1.25
million bits a second up to 230 feet using just .5 milliwatts, or
one-thousandth the power used by Bluetooth. These transmissions are
being achieved with the first working prototype chips the company
has received from IBM, which fabricated them using the advanced
silicon germanium semiconductor material developed for
communications applications.

Standard wireless transmissions encode data in a continuous sine
wave by varying the amplitude (the size of the wave) or the
frequency (the number of times the wave cycles each second),
sometimes both. In contrast, Time Domain's technology is similar to
a Morse code system that, at this point in its development,
switches on and off 40 million times a second. And unlike
traditional radio signals, which are confined to a very narrow
frequency, each pulse of ultra-wide band is transmitted across a
wide portion of the radio spectrum, so that only a tiny amount of
energy is radiated at any single frequency.

The company said it believes that the bandwidth, or data-carrying
capacity, of its technology can be expanded to many times its
current limit -- perhaps as high as billions of bits per second.

Moreover, while standard narrowband wireless technologies have a
limited bandwidth, the digital pulse approach has the potential to
handle a large number of simultaneous users in close proximity,
Time Domain officials said.

John Godbey for The New York Times

A silicon chip developed by Time Domain. The chip, which can be
used in ultrawide band radio systems, transmits 40 million coded
wireless pulses a second.

Ultra-wide band has the added advantage of being significantly more
resistant to "multipath interference," a problem that plagues
indoor radio systems because signals tend to bounce off many

Industry officials said they did not expect an early resolution to
the [10]FCC's inquiry, which was begun in August. One particular
obstacle is that a key official at the Federal Aviation
Administration has filed an objection with the FCC, warning about a
potential problem caused by the clustering of large numbers of
transmitters, even at very low power levels.

However, industry officials note that current FCC rules permit
"incidental" emitters -- generally, consumer devices like personal
computers, hair dryers, electric razors, automobiles and arc
welders -- and that no hazard has been demonstrated from the many
millions of these products in everyday use.

Last month, a group of scientists and engineers met at [11]Interval
Research Corp., a computer industry research center financed by
Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft Corp., to coordinate industry
input into the FCC decision-making process.

More recently, an Interval physicist, Roberto Aiello, filed an
independent comment with the agency, reporting that a simulation by
his research group indicated that even if millions of
ultra-wide-band transmitters were allowed to operate, they would
have a negligible impact on aviation and other communications

"The FAA is worried about this, and I think it's a good position
for them to take," Aiello said. "But I think there's concrete
evidence that there will not be interference from ultra-wide band."

In addition to Time Domain, companies asking the FCC for exemptions
from spectrum regulations include U.S. Radar Inc., which is
developing a system for finding buried objects and looking behind
walls, and [12]Zircon Corp., a maker of high technology tools like
devices that find joists in walls.


13. http://www.fcc.gov/oet/dockets/et98-153/
14. http://www.time-domain.com/
15. http://www.bluetooth.com/default.asp
16. http://www.interval.com/
17. http://www.zircon.com/


Rohit Khare -- UC Irvine -- 4K Associates -- +1-(626) 806-7574 http://www.ics.uci.edu/~rohit -- http://xent.ics.uci.edu/~FoRK