Bluetooth SIG drops UWB; eyeing 60GHz technology

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has shelved any plans to use the ultrawideband technology it acquired from the WiMedia Alliance when that group decided in March it would fold. In its place, the Bluetooth group is conducting due diligence on 60 GHz technology as a possible transport for a future high-rate Bluetooth.

The decision pounds another nail into the coffin for standard ultrawideband (UWB) wireless technology, once seen as the leading path to high data rate wireless links. The move signals rising interest in 60 GHz nets, as well as concerns that technology could face the same fate as UWB.

The Bluetooth group asked stakeholders of the WiMedia technology to make their technology available on the same royalty-free basis as Bluetooth. The goal was to enable the Bluetooth organization to certify and license UWB systems in the same way it currently handles Bluetooth.

“Some WiMedia members weren’t amenable to that,” said Mike Foley, chairman of the Bluetooth SIG.

The former WiMedia members “can charge royalties in a market of zero units, so good luck to them,” Foley said. “It’s something of a poor development for the industry, but that’s where we are at,” he added.

Foley formally announced the situation to SIG members in a regular group newsletter sent this week.

“The Bluetooth SIG can now conclude that since the response for having these [WiMedia IP] agreements signed has not been sufficient, the Bluetooth SIG will not pursue this further at the present time,” the newsletter said.

Like many in the industry, the Bluetooth group is now turning its attention from UWB to 60 GHz as the next big thing in fast wireless. But work on 60 GHz is already split between two emerging standards and two industry associations.

The WirelessHD group is promoting chips from startup SiBeam already used in TVs from Panasonic and others to send uncompressed video between TVs and set-top boxes. It is roughly based on the IEEE 802.15.3c spec.

A separate group, the Wireless Gigabit Alliance launched earlier this year, backed by many of the leading vendors of Wi-Fi chips and systems. It says it will align with the emerging IEEE spec for next-generation Wi-Fi and aim at a variety of applications including those of the WirelessHD group.

In its early days, companies took opposing sides in and out of the IEEE on ultrawideband as well, one of many factors that slowed adoption of the technology.

“I hope we, as an industry, learned a little something from UWB having two [competing] camps,” said Foley. “That was one of the reasons [UWB] hasn’t to date been successful,” he said.

Foley said the WirelessHD group seems to being doing a good job. “Starting with one use case and branching out from there can be a solid path as long as you haven’t put any design limiting characteristics in your spec,” he said.

He took a dimmer view of the WiGig Alliance which includes many members from the Wi-Fi Alliance seeking a future beyond today’s 802.11n spec.

“They might be getting confused about what their real market is and trying to move from wireless LANs to a lot of other things,” Foley said. “I am not sure how good a strategy that will be for them,” he added.

Nevertheless, the Bluetooth group is in the early stages of exploring the various 60 GHz options. “It’s still a little early to condemn or speak harshly on 60 GHz though people seem to be heading in that same direction [as UWB],” said Foley.

Courtesy: EETimes.

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