UWB supporters, who want to replace cables with 500 Mbit/s short-range wireless links, will have to face the telecoms industry on its home ground, as the deadline approaches for submissions to set the policy of the telecoms industry's standards body.

"The ITU [International Telecommunications Union] sets global parameters," said Gary Smith Anderson, chief executive of UWB company Uraxs, which is hosting the next meeting of the ITU's workgroup on UWB. "Other entities will finalise the standards and regulations, and every country has the sovereign right to spectrum within its borders. But unless everyone is on the same page, global adoption is almost impossible."

ITU/R Task Group 1/8 will draft ITU policy on UWB at its next meeting meeting in San Diego on 18 to 27 May. The group is due to hand its final recommendations to the ITU (and then disband) after a meeting in October. "The meeting in October will be a short one," said Anderson. "Ninety-nine percent of the work should be done at the next meeting."

The deadline to be a delegate is closed, but submissions can still be entered through the FCC until the end of March, said Anderson. Other existing delegates may also carry opinions to the meeting, and Anderson hopes it will benefit from the discussions sparked by the consultation held by UK regulator Ofcom.

The biggest issue is likely to be the telecoms industry's demands that UWB keep out of their spectrum, which have led to fears that regulators will restrict UWB's potential in order to avoid interference with 3G, GPS and satellite systems.

"Ninety-nine percent of the 'interference' is 'people might buy UWB instead of 3G'," said one commentator to a Slashdot discussion on our earlier coverage, "but that's expressed in technical terms of 'they might garble a few bits on our services which are fairly robust, have built-in ECC, and run TCP protocols which detect and correct for errors', so the 3G owners ask for unreasonably low power levels for UWB and the regulators go along with them."

Anderson dismisses the idea that ITU is hostile to UWB: "The ITU supports UWB, and always has," he said. "But there is concern and contention in the ITU, because a lot of interest is involved." He credits the ITU's positive attitude to discussions in Task Group

"The ITU works on consensus, not by votes," says Anderson. Although many of the same people are involved, the ITU is a more "political" body than the IEEE, and is more global (despite the global acceptance of its standards, IEEE is officially a US body). It is also much more focussed on the telecoms industry.

With two proposals deadlocked in the IEEE, the UWB world now has three contenders as one vendor Pulse-Link is going it alone.

ITU standards are called Recommendations. Examples of ITU standards include ATM, X.25 and the V-series of modem standards on which we have all relied at some point.

The Task Group meeting will also have a public track for lectures about UWB and an exhibition of prototypes.