Europe approves UWB regulations

Brussels, Belgium — The European Com- mission has finally issued details of the licensing regulations for ultrawideband (UWB) networking in Europe, albeit with some restrictions due to be lifted early in 2008. UWB data transmission is set to be used for cable replacement in consumer goods to enable large files to be transmitted over short distances, typically within a room, at 480 Mbits/second and above.

Release of the European Commission's decision dovetailed neatly with the first European WiMedia Alliance meeting, held here late last month. The WiMedia Alliance is an industry association that promotes and enables the adoption, regulation, standardization and multivendor interoperability of UWB worldwide. Its 250-plus members include consumer electronics, mobile device, personal computer and software manufacturers. The alliance is supported by organizations such as the 1394 Trade Association, Bluetooth SIG and USB-IF.

The Brussels event presented an opportunity for the European Commission's Frank Greco, deputy head of unit, DG INFSO B4: Radio Spectrum Policy, to provide insight into the commission's announcement.

Greco stressed that effective management of electromagnetic spectrum is a key enabling factor for the European Union as part of its “Lisbon initiative”–taking steps at a European level to enable the economy to grow, create more jobs and be competitive.

“Technology needs to be pervasive, and wireless is a key enabler, especially in rural areas,” he said.

The EU wants to go beyond the current situation, where strict regulation of wireless can cause a spectrum bottleneck, blocking innovation and the use of technology, Greco said.

“This is not always visible until individual companies or industrial sectors hit regulation barriers, but we are trying to tackle this and, if possible, remove spectrum from the equation,” he said. “From the spectrum policy point of view, we were always fascinated by the underlying premise of ultrawideband, which was 'something for nothing' with reuse of the spectrum and making it more efficient.”

Greco added that the EC is “on the side of innovation, but we understand there are existing interests that also need to be protected.”

The European Commission will use only part of the spectrum approved for use in the United States in 2002. Greco described the equivalent isotropic radiated-power value of –41.3 dBm/MHz as the “magic figure.” In Europe, this will be applied over the 6- to 8.5-GHz frequency range, whereas in the United States the FCC applies this over a broader spectrum from a much lower frequency. It is also applied provisionally until the end of 2010 in the 4.2- to 4.8-GHz range (see table, below).

Other bands are more restrictive. “These power limits are essentially compromises, the final agreement struck between those who wanted UWB to be introduced with characteristics rather closer to the U.S. regulations and those that felt other radio users needed greater protection,” Greco said. “Essentially, an annex in the EC decision provides a compromise, which we believe is sufficient to trigger a market in the European Union for UWB at the beginning.”

An amendment due in the first quarter of 2008 is expected to relax the restrictions to take into account new studies on UWB compatibility in automotive and railway environments, compatibility with aeronautical radar in the 2.7- to 3.4-GHz band, the 8.5- to 9-GHz radar band, and “detect-and-avoid” and other interference mitigation techniques.

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