480 Mb/s UWB networking?

Joseph S. Barrera III joe at barrera.org
Mon Jan 12 21:23:54 PST 2004

A lot of fascinating claims in this article, including:
"UWB is 25 times more power efficient than Wi-Fi."

- Joe


Alereon Unveils Superfast Ultrawideband
By Robyn Peterson
January 9, 2004

LAS VEGAS-- Alereon Inc, an Austin, Texas based semiconductor company, 
introduced two ultrawideband (UWB) chips at CES 2004, designed to 
transmit at almost a half a gigabit per second at short distances.

Due by late 2004, Alereon's two chips are targeted at OEMs who will use 
them to build routers, access points, and UWB clients. Jeffrey Ross, 
Vice President at Alereon, claimed at least one customer has already 
signed up to use the chips, but refused to say who.

Is UWB a Wi-Fi-Killer?

According to Ross, UWB offers high throughput over distances less than 
10 meters. "We've confirmed tests [where throughput levels are] in 
excess of 100 Mbps, but 480 Mbps is feasible." He went on to say, 
"products being designed now are designed to hit 480 Mbps."

With short range but high throughput, UWB is well-suited for networking 
home entertainment. Connecting CE devices together has been a major 
theme running through CES this year, driven mainly by Microsoft. In many 
home scenarios, networked devices are reasonably close together but 
require higher bandwidth than many current wireless networks can offer.

Although many expect WiFi to be used for audio and video networking, 
Alereon's CTO, Dr. Jim Lansford, disagrees. "You're not going to have 
the performance you need to provide pure multimedia [with Wi-Fi]," 
Lansford predicts.

But WiFi vendors aren't standing still. At CES Broadcom unveiled its new 
AfterBurner technology which reportedly can drive 802.11g chips to 125 
Mbps over one channel. And quality of service, in the form of 802.11e, 
is expected to be added to Wi-Fi by mid-year

Ross said he doesn't see UWB as a replacement for Wi-Fi in every 
context. "You'll have different wireless implementations for whatever 
you want to do." He continued with an example, "Wi-Fi is not going to be 
displaced for connecting PCs to the internet," because of its long range 
and ample throughput for activities on the Internet, but he went on to 
reiterate that for consumer electronics and media networking, UWB is the 
best choice.

Lansford quips, "if your digital movie camera could wirelessly transmit 
a movie to your PC at 480 Mbps (using UWB), how happy would you be?"

Operating at 3.1 to 4.8 GHz, interference with 802.11, or other 
mainstream wireless devices, shouldn't be a problem for UWB. Lansford 
adds, "2.4 GHz is very crowded. UWB doesn't really have that problem." 
Some implementations of Wi-Fi have been alleged to interfere with baby 
monitors, phones and keyboards.

However, competition is not far off in the world of UWB, as reported in 
the Register, Samsung, in conjunction with Staccato Communications, also 
plans to bring a UWB product to market which offers 480 Mbps, and 
Toshiba showed off its own UWB solutions at CES as well.

UWB might find a niche with mobile devices as well – where battery 
consumption requirements often drive the success of a product. "Power 
consumption per bit is extremely low [with UWB]," explains Lansford, 
"UWB is 25 times more power efficient than Wi-Fi."

With such a low draw on the battery, Ross adds, "UWB will be compelling 
for consumer electronics, peripherals, and mobile devices."

Alereon will be offering a complete solution, from the MAC to a radio, 
software and antenna. The company is well funded. On January 6th, 
Alereon announced that it has received $31.5 million in the first round 
of its Series A financing.

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