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Ultra wideband may end up royalty-free

XtremeSpectrum tells a standards body that if its ultra wideband technology is chosen, it won't make other companies pay royalties.

The battle between technology heavyweights over whose proposal will become a new short-range, high-speed wireless standard has heated up again, with one side now promising to offer its technology royalty-free to other companies.

The promise was made by Motorola and XtremeSpectrum, which are backing one of two proposals for a new wireless technology called ultra wideband (UWB), which creates 100mbps (megabits per second) links between devices. That's much faster than Bluetooth, a rival wireless technology now used in many of the same devices--such as cell phones and handheld computers--that UWB is destined for.

Royalties are one of two ways companies make money on their intellectual property (IP). They are collected from equipment makers based on how many devices using the technology are made or sold. IP owners also usually charge manufacturers a fee to license the technology for use in their products.

It's become "clear that for a standard to be confirmed, it must not have any licensing strings attached--it must be royalty free," XtremeSpectrum CEO Martin Rofheart said in a statement. "We believe we are eliminating any licensing concerns...and moving one step closer to enabling the broad consumer adoption that the industry desires."

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Texas Instruments, which along with Intel is backing a competing proposal, intends to offer its technology royalty-free as well. However, it is awaiting approval from other supporters, which now include software heavyweight Microsoft, before making any final commitment.

"While we intend to do the same thing, this has to happen within a large ecosystem," said Yoram Solomon, TI's general manager for the consumer networking business unit.

An Intel representative could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The winning technology behind the UWB standard, which will bear the name 802.15.3a, is expected to generate $1.39 billion in revenue by 2007, according to projections from telecom researcher Allied Business Intelligence.

The game of one-upmanship is taking place two weeks before a task group meets again to try to decide between the two proposals. The TI and Intel side has emerged as a clear favorite, winning a majority of the votes cast during a recent meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' UWB task group, but falling short of the necessary 75 percent.