Research Firm Says Wi-Fi Will Go Bye-Bye

Jul 11, 2003

Susan Kuchinskas

Emerging technology researchers say Ultrawideband (UWB) will eventually beat out the current Wi-Fi wireless networking standard and make Bluetooth go the way of the sabertooth.

If those bold predictions from the Mountain View, Calif.-based WTRS come true, then they promise that standards battles for wireless networking will continue into the next decade.

The firm said Ultrawideband, or UWB, would eventually eclipse the 802.11b, or popular Wi-Fi networking protocol, which is spreading in use across the country, helped by rollouts of wireless Internet access in Starbucks coffee houses and McDonald's Restaurants.

UWB works in what is sometimes called the "garage door spectrum," the unlicensed frequency of the spectrum commonly used for garage door openers, portable telephones and baby monitors. But its high speed data transit capabilities of 40 to 60 megabits per second, in some cases nearly ten times as fast as Wi-Fi, low power requirements, its ability to penetrate walls, and use GPRS information make UWB an attractive option for all kinds of machine-to-machine communications.

UWB's data throughput potential, and its ability to support a piconet -- an ad hoc network of devices using the Bluetooth networking standard -- means it has the potential to displace technologies used in local area networks, WTRS' Ultrawideband Market Report said. UWB's impact could be just as dramatic on technologies used in personal area networks and, eventually, even the CDMA cellular networking standard that is deployed by many U.S. cellular carriers, the report continued.

Already, consumer electronics manufacturers are experimenting with UWB, according to WTRS principle Kirsten West. "Streaming video to the television set wirelessly is the hot application they're working on right now," West said. UWB will also become the standard for the home gateway, the control center for automating everything from the security, heating and lighting systems to remote controlled appliances and home entertainment centers.

In office buildings, UWB is expected to replace 802.11b networking protocols because of its penetration abilities. "Walls, cubicles and people can all interfere with 802.11 technologies," West said. "UWB doesn't have this problem." She estimates that Wi-Fi companies will enjoy about a ten-year run of sales before UWB technologies begin to disrupt their products.

The report also said that a number of manufacturers plan to make UWB-enabled cell phones in order to provide the same kinds of short-range networking features and functions that Bluetooth can provide.

Right now, today's UWB-enabled chips have a range of only around 30 feet, but that's due to a cap on the amount of power they can transmit. West said that the Federal Communications Commission may change that cap, which would allow telcos to replace their CDMA cellular towers with ones that can handle the cheaper, more powerful UWB chips.


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