Europe approves UWB regulations

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has finally issued details of the licensing regulations for ultra-wideband (UWB) networking in Europe, albeit with some restrictions that are due to be lifted early in 2008. UWB data transmission is set to be used for cable replacement in consumer goods enabling large files to be transmitted over short distances typically within a room – at 480-Mbits per second and above.

The European Commission’s release of its decision on the use of equipment using UWB technology dovetailed neatly with the first European WiMedia Alliance member meeting held in Brussels late in February.

The WiMedia Alliance is an industry association that promotes and enables the adoption, regulation, standardization and multi-vendor interoperability of UWB worldwide. Its 250-plus members include consumer electronics, mobile device, personal computer and software manufacturers.

The alliance is supported by several complementary organizations including the 1394 Trade Association, Bluetooth SIG and the USB-IF. The Alliance event gave the opportunity for Frank Greco, deputy head of unit, DG INFSO B4: Radio Spectrum Policy at the European Commission to provide an insight into the EC’s decision.

Greco stressed that effective management of electromagnetic spectrum is a key enabling factor for the EU as part of its so-called “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 use of technology. “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. This will never be totally possible but we would like to reduce this barrier to entry.”

“From the spectrum policy point of view we were always fascinated by the underlying premise of ultra-wideband which was ‘something-for-nothing’ with re-use of the spectrum and making it more efficient,” added Greco. “We are on the side of innovation but we understand there are existing interests that also need to be protected.”

The EC has chosen to make use of only part of the spectrum that was approved for use in the US in 2002. Greco describes the equivalent isotropic radiated power (EIRP) value of -41.3dBm/MHz as the ‘magic figure’. In Europe this will be applied over the 6.0- 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).

In other bands there are more restrictive limits. “These power limits are essentially compromises, the final agreement struck between those who wanted UWB to be introduced with characteristics rather closer to the US regulations and those that felt other radio users needed greater protection. 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,” said Greco.

What is known is that an amendment due in the first quarter of 2008 is designed to relax the restrictions and take into account a number of new studies covering UWB compatibility in automotive and railway environments, the compatibility with aeronautical radar in the 2.7 to 3.4-GHz band, the 8.5 to 9.0-GHz radar band and to take into account work done on “detect-and-avoid” and other interference mitigation techniques.

“Obviously if in the coming months as devices come on the market which generate other interference problems we can take them in to account. We don’t think that is going to happen but we must be prepared,” said Greco.

Other niche or sector-specific applications to use UWB have already been considered by the EC. Decisions have already been adopted for 24-GHz and 79-GHz short-range radar for cars while frequencies for ground/wall probing radar and building materials analysis should be implemented this year. Other applications such as object discrimination, location tracking and level probing are under consideration. “Obviously we don’t want to have too many specific technical measures but the regulations on generic devices tend to be for very high volumes of units so tend to be rather cautious.”

At an 'open house' during the WiMedia Alliance member meeting in Brussels a number of companies demonstrated prototypes. A Mercedes-Benz R500 took pride of place and was enabled with the ability to stream high-definition video live from a consumer electronic device using UWB to a rear seat entertainment system. The vehicle’s UWB system incorporated the Intel Wireless UWB Link 1480 MAC silicon and an Alereon AL4000 WiMedia RF Transceiver to create the wireless USB connection.

Tzero (Sunnyvale, Calif) showed a wireless for high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) set-up that will transmit video to a flat panel HDTV from DVD players, set-top boxes, game systems and other home entertainment products. Transmission of high-definition quality video in the wireless for HDMI solution is enabled by Analog Devices’ JPEG2000 video compression ICs, which are compliant to the royalty-free JPEG2000 standard. ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (Taiwan) has signed up to use the solution and products could be in the shops well before Christmas. Other demonstrations showed wireless transmission of high resolution still pictures from a prototype Kodak camera to a printer taking just a few seconds.

See also: Europe finally homing in on Ultra Wideband

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