Ultrawideband gets go-ahead in Europe

The European Commission’s Radio Spectrum Committee gave the green light to UWB (ultrawideband), paving the way for the technology to be used in Europe as early as February.

The committee gave what’s known as a “positive regulatory opinion,” which means the decision will now be formally adopted by the Commission and will then become binding EU law, said Mona Lund, a press officer for the European Commission, in an e-mail exchange.

UWB is a wireless technology that can transmit data at 480M bps (bits per second) and is designed primarily to move data over short ranges. Applications could include sending video from a computer to a television or photos from a digital camera to a computer.

Lund could not reveal the restrictions that will govern the use of UWB in Europe, designed to ensure that UWB doesn’t interfere with other wireless devices, but said that the Commission will publish the regulations over the next few days.

The committee was mindful of existing restrictions on UWB that have already been set in other regions of the world. “Globally harmonized products would of course benefit consumers, and we believe there is sufficient overlap between the UWB regulations in the U.S. and in the E.U. to encourage manufacturers to produce equipment that can be used in different regions,” Lund said.

Despite some historical objections from groups concerned that UWB could interfere with other wireless services, the 70 per cent majority required to pass the decision in the Radio Spectrum Committee was easily obtained, Lund said.

She expects the formal adoption procedure to be complete by early February after which member states will be required to adopt the measure as soon as possible and within six months.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved the use of UWB in 2002, but UWB products that comply with the industry trade group’s certification process haven’t yet hit the market.

The technology has been controversial because rather than operating over a narrow frequency band, it transmits using very low power over a very wide swath of spectrum. That raised concerns of interference in some wireless industries.

UWB is expected to be used as a cable replacement. Developers of IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) products are creating UWB devices that can wirelessly send video from an end user’s DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) router, for example, to a set-top box connected to a TV.

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