UWB Reaches Milestone

Focus Enhancements, one of the primary developers of ultra wideband (UWB) wireless networking technology, has successfully demonstrated the transmission of two HDTV datastreams through the walls of its Hillsboro, Oregon, facility. This is an important step toward enabling consumer products to wirelessly transmit multiple HD streams throughout the home using Focus Enhancements' UWB chipsets, which should become available later this year.

UWB is poised to become the wireless media-networking technology of choice in the future. Unlike 802.11 (WiFi), which uses a high-amplitude, narrow-band RF carrier, UWB spreads its energy over a wide band of frequencies at low amplitude, which greatly reduces any chance of interference from other RF devices such as cordless phones and microwave ovens. Other advantages of UWB over WiFi include prioritization of A/V content (WiFi has no prioritization) and more robust operation, especially if a device on the network fails.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of UWB is its data rate, which depends on the distance between two nodes. At 8 meters, the data rate can be as high as 880Mbps; at 20 meters, it can reach 110Mbps, which is enough for four simultaneous HDTV streams of 20Mbps each, plus some network overhead. At 110Mbps, UWB exhibits twice the maximum data rate of 802.11a or 802.11g (54Mbps) and 10 times the maximum rate of 802.11b (11Mbps). And keep in mind that the effective data rates of all flavors of 802.11 are generally half of their maximum rates, especially if the signal has to flow through a wireless access point (which it typically does).

According to Mike Kelly, vice president of marketing for Focus Enhancements' semiconductor group, "Focus has essentially doubled the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering's (IEEE's) targets of 110 Mbps at a distance of 10 meters. Other solutions fall short when trying to deliver sustained high-resolution video over longer distances and are not very tolerant of things getting in the way of the signal. We are overcoming these obstacles—now with two HD streams through a wall—and have something that is practical for use by consumers in the home."