The UWB Puddle Gets More Muddy
By Mike Masnick, Wed Feb 23 23:45:00 GMT 2005

The battle for standardization in Ultrawideband (UWB) technology clearly isn't going to work itself out any time soon. However, does it really need a third player to make the situation worse?


The last thing people should be talking about these days is a standards battle for UWB technology. The various companies involved in the space were supposed to spend 2003 coming up with a standard, 2004 getting everything ready, and 2005 would be the great unveiling of the technology many have claimed (perhaps with good reason) a truly "disruptive" technology. However, something broke down along the way. 2003 started with 23 different proposals for a UWB standard, which quickly dropped to six down to a final two -- where everything stalled out.

Both sides in the battle, hoping to be the next Qualcomm of UWB, refused to give any ground. There would be no compromises and there would be no standard. Instead, discussions on UWB continually discuss the potential, but completely ignore the stalled standards process. While those involved do get together every once in a while, it's usually to hurl invectives at each other, rather than come up with any reasonable solution. In the end, this is damaging everyone. Both sides now say they're going to come to market with its own version of UWB, under various brand names. This means vendors are going to need to choose (or not choose at all). In other words, more confusion, fewer network effects, less compatibility and lowered incentives to buy. The greed and stubbornness surrounding UWB means that the entire pie has shrunk.

During the last year, Pulse-Link has tried to play the role of a referee among warring participants. While it over-marketed its own solution as being a mediator between the two competing UWB standards so that they could work together, the details showed that it was actually acting more like a traffic cop. The technology would let the two UWBs work at the same time without obliterating each other. A small step forward, but hardly a solution to the real problem. However, even that concept couldn't win support among the two sides who (it appears) would prefer to obliterate each other rather than actually get a working product to market.

Perhaps as something of a revenge for having its earlier proposal turned down, Pulse-Link is now back, and is dismissing both of the warring camps as taking the wrong approach to UWB entirely. Instead, Pulse-Link is muddying the choppy waters even more by tossing its own, new UWB standard into the mess. As expected, the two existing camps immediately scoffed at the proposal -- backed by the CWAVE alliance which is made up entirely of Pulse-Link and... well, no one else. It's not much of an alliance when you're the only participant.

While it may add a bit to the fireworks the next time everyone gets together to scream at each other (and to vote) about the UWB standard, it's certainly not going to help move this process forward. It's likely it will add to the confusion, and continue to slow down the progress of what really should be an amazing technology for high speed wireless connectivity. Instead, the fighting will continue, the confusion will continue, and other technologies will advance to try to claim the crown that UWB could have easily been wearing by now.