Bluetooth SIG and UWB Camps Agree to Collaborate

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group said on Wednesday that it will work with the developers of the wireless technology commonly known as Ultra-wideband (UWB) to make the technologies compatible.

The benefit to developers is that they will be able to capitalize on UWB’s 100 to 200 megabits speeds (at distances of up to 20 feet) to meet the high-speed demands of synchronizing and transferring large amounts of data as well as high-quality video apps on PDAs, cell phones and other devices. Consumers will benefit because the technologies will enable them to seamlessly integrate their Bluetooth-enabled devices in the home, the auto, at work and on the go, says Miguel Pellon, vice president technology-standards, Motorola.

The Bluetooth SIG comprises vendors in telecommunications, computing, automotive and networking, such as Agere, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba. The SIG says the details are still being worked out.

“It has been apparent that members of the Bluetooth SIG would like to enable products with higher data rates, says Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “I feel that it is the responsibility of the industry to recognize synergies and limit fragmentation as much as possible. Joint development between Bluetooth technology and UWB is the fastest and most economical pathway for both technologies to meet the future demands of companies and end users.”

“The Bluetooth SIG's intention to employ UWB in [its] next generation products is a very positive step in allowing consumers to connect seamlessly between PCs, phones and consumer electronics equipment,” adds Stephen Wood, UWB technology strategist, Intel.

The collaboration of both groups is a natural and necessary evolution of the market, says Celeste Crystal, senior research analyst, semiconductors, at IDC. “As consumers continue to increase the use of portable and digital media devices, the need for standardized, higher performance, low-power connectivity solutions becomes integral,” she says. “Leveraging Bluetooth technology’s established brand and traction in the consumer space with the higher data rate, lower power UWB technology should [speed] time to market for next-generation devices, and complement the growing demand for connectivity."

UWB will benefit from Bluetooth technology’s brand equity, market penetration and technical and organizational maturity, Bluetooth SIG’s representatives say. UWB can skip many time-intensive and costly hurdles in technology and market development by joining forces with a technology that is past that stage. Not only do companies want to leverage investments in Bluetooth technology, but so do 250 million consumers who already have invested in Bluetooth technology and who will want those devices to work with future high data rate WPAN products.

Before bringing products to the global market, some fundamental issues of UWB need to be resolved, like interference issues for Wireless LAN, WiMax and new cellular bands, in addition to the lack of a worldwide spectrum allocation for UWB.

Another potential hitch in this plan to collaborate is dissension within the UWB camp: Rivals WiMedia-MultiBand OFDM Alliance and DS-UWB are touting competing and incompatible technologies. Previous attempts within the IEEE, whose 802.15 WPAN Task Group 3 is charged with settling on a single UWB standard, have failed.