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The stealth network

UWB is like a digital ninja; it’s out there, but you don’t know where. By Philip Ling.

Without question, there is room in the world for one more wireless technology: even if it is very, very wide. Ultra wideband (UWB) is the latest (but not last) in a long line of wireless technologies that is set to enter our lives, whether we want it or not.
UWB falls into the category of a personal area network, or PAN; the most recent acronym to join the ranks of W-LAN and WAN. Although originally a military technology, its commercial potential didn’t go unnoticed and in 2002, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved its unlicenced use in the spectrum of 3.1 to 10.6GHz. It was particularly seized upon to provide a high bandwidth link between two or more consumer devices, with typical applications to include moving large media files between storage and playback devices; such as playing an MP3 track throughout the home on multiple devices at the same time, or transmitting a prerecorded program from a personal video recorder to multiple TVs in the home. Secondly, it may also be used to synchronise personal digital devices, such as a mobile phone and home PC or printer; a scenario more akin to the applications targeted by other PAN technologies, including Bluetooth, but differentiated by virtue of its higher data rate – in the hundreds of Mbit/s.
A key feature of UWB is its covertness: it transmits across a wide bandwidth that impinges on other incumbent technologies – like WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G – but at such low power levels that it just looks like background noise to any non UWB receiver. Unfortunately, it may also look like background noise to other UWB receivers and therein lies the problem.

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Philip Ling

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