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The Commercial Market
Ultra-wideband Receives Limited OK from FCC
Just when you thought you had figured out the difference between Bluetooth and CDCP, and you have sorted out the number of growing wireless LAN and Personnel Area Network protocols, the FCC has gone out and approved yet another way to transmit data through the air. As reported by Cahners In-Stat, the FCC has cleared the way for a controversial new way of transmitting wireless information, Ultra-wideband (UWB) as it is sometimes called. UWB is like nothing the FCC has ever approved before. Instead of transmitting information by modulating an RF carrier with phase, amplitude or frequency, UWB conveys its information by modulating with time. Benefits of UWB include high immunity to eavesdropping, high immunity to jamming and relatively good range for the amount of power consumed.
The best way to understand how UWB works is to remember the days before electronic ignition. You could often hear the click, click, click on the radio, caused by the sparks plugs, and the clicking speed increased when the engine revved-up. No matter which station was tuned-in, the clicking was there. While it might have sounded as noise at the time, it was really UWB.
UWB transmits information using super fast spikes, much like sparks generated by the sparkplugs, but unlike the sparks in the engine, the spikes of UWB are not evenly spaced. Rather, the time difference between spikes is what indicate a digital "1" or a "0." The UWB transmitter and receiver both agree in advance on the timing of the pulses, so only they can understand the conversation occurring. To others "listening in," an UWB conversation appears as just random pulses. To other radio equipment not designed to receive UWB, the random pulses just appear as noise and are discarded.
UWB is exciting because the technology allows more data to be carried in existing frequency spectrum that otherwise would remain unused. By making UWB pulses very fast and transmitting them at a very high rate, data can be transmitted at 100 Mbps or faster over a short range and with no spectrum allocations.
The struggle to get UWB approved has not been without controversy. It seems that many current users of the spectrum, many of whom who have paid millions for the privilege, do not really want to share. Those using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology contend that the UWB pulses could degrade the accuracy of their equipment, and cellular providers claim that UWB increases noise in their equipment and can decrease its capacity to handle calls. In the end, the FCC listened to their concerns and limited UWB power to a level where interference should not be a problem.
Rather than endorsing UWB totally, the FCC considers its decision to allow UWB more of a trial period. If interference with existing spectrum users does not become a problem, it is likely the FCC will raise the relatively low UWB power levels permitted in the future. Likewise, if UWB does prove to be troublesome, the FCC could lower the power limits or modify how UWB can be used.
Worldwide WLAN Market to Reach $5 B by 2006
The Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) market will grow over 30 percent a year and reach nearly $5 B by 2006, according to Synergy Research Group (SRG).
According to market analysis by SRG, wireless LAN equipment sales are forecasted to grow over 60 percent from 2001 to 2002. Furthermore, the Enterprise WLAN market and SOHO/Home WLAN market are expected to grow over 32 and 103 percent, respectively.
"Given the introduction of the 802.11a technology and the pending ratification of the 802.11g standard, the WLAN market will continue to out-pace all other networking market segments," said Aaron Vance, WLAN industry analyst at the Synergy Research Group. "Furthermore, as price-points for 802.11b devices keep dropping, the SOHO/Home market will continue to grow at nearly 40 percent a year for the next five years, representing an even greater market opportunity than that of the Enterprise."
Additionally, in 2001, the Enterprise WLAN market comprised nearly 57 percent of the total WLAN market. However, SRG is forecasting that the SOHO/Home segment will surpass that of the Enterprise by the end of 2002 and reach 58 percent of the total market by 2006.
Changes in DC Could Affect the Nature of Broadband
According to Cahners In-Stat/MDR, both Congress and the FCC are re-examining the rules under which the Bells deliver DSL to competing service providers. Congress recently passed the Tauzin-Dingell bill, which would allow the Bells to offer DSL service without opening their networks to competitors. While the bill's chances of passing in the Senate remain uncertain, the FCC is also looking to change the competitive nature of DSL.
The FCC is reviewing regulations governing how the Bells' wholesale DSL to their competitors and is considering the removal of wholesale price caps. This would allow the Bells to offer the DSL network to the competitors at any price they desire. Along with the price changes, the FCC is also looking at removing the Bells' requirement to offer UNE, or unencumbered network elements, of their DSL network. Today, Bells are required to provide competitors with access to the copper loop without having them purchase the entire DSL network. The passage of the Tauzin-Dingell bill or the new FCC regulations will change the face of broadband service in this country.
The pro-Bell side of these two measures says that passage will spur new DSL deployment. They contend that the Bells will be more willing to invest in new networking since they would now be ensured of its profitability. No longer would they have to share the fruits of their investments with their competitors. They say that this will lead to virtually every house in the US having access to DSL service. However, there are others that see it as the end of DSL competition.
Those not in the Bell camp see these potential changes as the end of competition within DSL. They say either of the two proposed changes would effectively make it impossible for the average ISP to offer DSL service. By removing the Bell requirement to open their networks to competition, the Bells will price all but the largest competitors out of the market. In effect, DSL could become much like the cable modem industry. Consumer choice will become limited to only the network provider and a handful of the largest ISPs.
Cahners In-Stat/MDR believes that the passage of either the Tauzin-Dingell bill or the new FCC rules governing DSL will spur new investments by the Bell companies. With the Bells no longer forced to share their network investments with their competitors, they will be more compelled to invest in it.
Cahners In-Stat/MDR also feels that these changes would effectively block the majority of ISPs from competing in the DSL market. However, an unintended benefit of all this could be greater competition across broadband technology. Cahners In-Stat/MDR forecast that these changes could encourage more ISPs to look to fixed broadband wireless. With coming changes in wireless technology, ISPs should be able to offer customers broadband services while circumventing the local Bell companies. Wireless will allow ISPs to offer broadband without being reliant on the local Bell. If competition drives service adoption the way ISPs say it does, then should not increased competition among not only service providers, but also broadband technologies drive it even more? When all is said and done, the current DSL activity in Washington, DC, might end the majority of competition within the DSL market, but it will not end competition within the broadband market. In fact customers may find that they still have the same choice in service providers, but now they have a greater choice of broadband access technologies.