The UK regulator Ofcom has gone into UWB hyperdrive, hoping to lead Europe's regulators in endorsing ultra wide-band, the radical fast wireless technique that promises Gigabit links to do away with USB cables.
The body will publish a report on Monday and propose a blueprint for Europe's UWB policy before a European meeting in December that could set the shape of UWB's fate in Europe.
No UWB products are on the market yet, but the regulators are working hard to accommodate a technology that offers very high bandwidth by using low-energy signals that spread across wide swathes of radio spectrum. The dilemma is that traditional spectrum management allows each technology a narrow band of wavelengths.
UWB could be a significant boost to technology markets, if regulators can find a way to allow "licence-exempt" equipment, along the lines of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. US regulator, the FCC, solved this by allowing UWB as long as it only emits power-levels allowed for leakage from consumer equipment.
Next Monday, Ofcom will publish an independent report on regulations for UWB, expected to endorse the technology, suggesting slightly tighter rules than the FCC applied in the US. The report, which will be called The Value of UWB Personal Area Networking Services to the United Kingdom, according to ZDNet, has been written by Mason Communications and DotEcon. It is expected to broadly follow the FCC approach, but with some tightening up of the "mask" - the spectrum ranges where UWB equipment must not broadcast.
The mask suggested by the Mason report is likely to ban UWB from more frequencies to make sure it keeps clear of radio technologies more widely deployed in Europe, such as 3G. "Concern over interference between UWB and 3G networks won't prevent UWB being legalised in Britain, but it will probably mean more stringent safety controls," said a source close to the report.
The quicker the UK can get firm proposals together, the better for European regulation, said an Ofcom spokesperson. After a swift consultation on what those rules should be, Ofcom plans to take concrete proposals to the European regulation advisor, the spectrum management group of CEPT (the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations), which meets in Brussels on 8 December.
Those proposals would also be aimed at a specialist CEPT technical group (ECC TG3) looking at UWB, which meets on 10 January in Copenhagen. That group expects to have a draft of its final proposals for European UWB regulations by March 2005.
Amongst all this, the UK's spectrum management is also due for an overhaul, and the group will publish a spectrum framework review on 23 November, that will rethink how spectrum should be managed - including ideas about UWB. "It will be a visionary point of view on how we manage spectrum," said the spokesperson.
"People still think of UWB as 'impulse radio'," said Mark Bowles of UWB standards maker, the MBOA SIG, Impulse radio uses very broad-frequency bursts of signal to carry high bandwidth. "It's more subtle than that. It is about how you mine spectrum." The MBOA SIG which launched its specifications yesterday would have to ensure its UWB products and standards conformed to international regulations.