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Ultrawideband groups band together

Two industry groups are teaming up to promote a de facto standard for ultrawideband, helping ease concerns that the wireless technology could become mired in red tape.

Two industry groups have teamed up to push development of ultrawideband, boosting its momentum and bringing products based on the wireless technology closer to market.

The WiMedia Alliance on Thursday recognized the MultiBand OFDM Alliance's (MBOA) version of ultrawideband technology and said it will throw its support behind the group and its proposed radio specification, Intel representatives confirmed on Friday. Intel is a member of both the WiMedia Alliance and the MBOA.

Ultrawideband technology allows a slew of PC and consumer electronics devices to communicate wirelessly with one another at transfer rates of up to 480 megabits per second within a 10-meter range.

Craig Mathias, an analyst at research firm Farpoint Group, said the move shows that efforts to create a de facto industry standard are moving ahead, helping ease concerns that ultrawideband could become mired in red tape, while other wireless technologies replace its role in the market.

"This is a boost for the market, because, despite a standards gridlock, trade associations are pushing forward, so devices are likely closer to being released than previously thought," Mathias said. "The question is: How big is that market, and when will devices be out?"

Ultrawideband chips are expected to be released by mid-2005. Devices that use the processors may be available as early as that holiday season, according to Stephen Wood, a spokesman for Intel communications labs.

Ultrawideband is often viewed as a replacement for Bluetooth technology. Ultrawideband allows higher amounts of data to be wirelessly transferred than Bluetooth.

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But ultrawideband's growth has been endangered by a fractious technology fight. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers members prefer the MBOA proposal. But a competing standard from Motorola and others is winning enough votes to derail approval of the MBOA's technology. The two sparring factions are slowing down the creation and completion of a standard. For a standard to be completed, 75 percent of the companies working on the standard must approve it.

Motorola representatives said WiMedia Alliance decisions are confidential and have not yet been released. WiMedia Alliance representatives declined to comment.

The WiMedia Alliance endorsed the physical and medium access control layers of the MBOA's proposed radio specification, which are essentially responsible for moving data, and sending and receiving it off the air.