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Commentary: FCC cuts the wires

The Federal Communications Commission's decision on ultrawideband is good news, a Gartner analyst says, and will result in a faster and more secure way of sending wireless transmissions.

By Martin Reynolds, Gartner Analyst

The decision by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to make ultrawideband available for commercial use is good news. UWB technology provides a faster and more secure way of sending wireless transmissions.

The FCC's decision, while not welcomed by everyone,

See news story:
Fed approves new wireless technology
will keep UWB noise out of the sensitive areas of radio bandwidth occupied by GPS (Global Positioning System), cell phone and wireless LAN systems. It clears the way for the development of short-range, high-speed wireless technology for network devices.

Many myths have been propagated about UWB, concocted from half-truths by often overzealous public relations and marketing managers. Gartner believes that the technology is ideally suited to short-range (less than 10 meters), high-bandwidth (100mbps and up) wireless connections. As it relates to such devices, the FCC ruling requires indoor or short-range peer-to-peer operations in the frequency band between 3GHz and 6GHz. Those requirements are stringent enough to prevent UWB from causing mischief elsewhere, but provide an adequate playground for companies to test and use their products.

Gartner believes that, by 2005, UWB could become Bluetooth 3. Bluetooth is a wireless-networking technology with a range of about 10 meters and a raw-data transmission rate of 1mbps. Because UWB is mostly a digital technology, it scales with silicon technology. However, it will likely face stiff challenges from more conventional technologies, and its ascendance is by no means certain.

UWB has other applications. It can provide very precise positioning for objects within a small area--such as a warehouse--using a very low-power radio-frequency tag. It can also do a great job with short-range radar for devices, such as vehicle airbags and collision avoidance systems, for detecting pipes, wires and other structures inside walls and for detecting perimeter disturbances.

However, the technology to detect bodies on the other side of walls with a handheld device remains fanciful, as does the idea of ultralow-power long-range radio. These concepts will remain in the science fiction realm for some time to come.

(For related commentary on other wireless technology applications, see

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.