updated 12:20 am EDT, Tue March 17, 2009
UWB group to close
The ultrawideband (UWB) trade organization, WiMedia Alliance, has announced that it will cease operations. The group will transfer its specification ownership and technology to the USB Implementers Forum (IF), Wireless USB Promoter Group and Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) for further development. The recipients can now continue progress and apply for standardization and certification.
"This move will consolidate all elements required to bring certified Wireless USB solutions to market," said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF president and chairman. "This technology transfer is a logical next step in the evolution of UWB and from our standpoint, is best for the industry and consumers."
Although the ending of operations could easily be viewed as a setback for UWB, the standard has endured despite lackluster adoption with initial high-priced products, according to Ars Technica. The cost of implementation has finally dropped to a level potentially conducive to wider acceptance.
WiMedia's president Stephen Wood told Ars that the UWB chipsets are approaching what he describes as the "magic price point" of $5 or less. He noted that Bluetooth fell between $5 and $5.50 before taking off, while UWB currently sits between $6 and $7. At its debut, the technology was priced closer to $15 and the group members were "not surprised we've not seen widescale adoption."
The technology is designed to allow a radio to simultaneously work with several standards such as TCP/IP, Wireless USB and Bluetooth, among others. UWB offers fast data transfer for personal area networks (PANs) but at short ranges, as a potentially lower-power and lower-interference competitor to WiFi. WiMedia successfully laid the groundwork, leaving the remaining integration to the respective trade groups.
"It's essentially the same folks in all three groups with very little difference," Wood noted. The group's engineers had been spending "ungodly amounts of time" in meetings, while the organization continued to pay for the other groups.
Wood claimed the decision was made after concluding that there would not be a divergence in the radio standard. Equipment manufacturers likely would avoid the costs associated with producing several different radios for the same purpose.
"The market's evolving: we were in a state where the PC and the settop box and the phone were extremely different market segments. We're moving into a state where they're the same segment," Wood explained. He forecasts that UWB could eventually work with 60GHz networking, taking the interference resistance and penetration of the UWB standard and the line-of-sight high throughput of the 60GHz technology.