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The Commercial Market

August 1, 2003
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The Commercial Market


IEEE P802.15.3 Standard Gains Sponsor Ballot Approval

The IEEE P802.15.3 standard for high rate Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPAN), designed specifically for consumer electronic and portable multimedia devices, has completed IEEE 802.15 working group and sponsor ballot approval. One approval step remains within the consensus process followed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) before IEEE 802.15.3 is completed. Final approval was expected in mid-June 2003, and copies are for sale and can be obtained from the IEEE on-line store at http://www.shop.ieee.org.

The 802.15.3 Task Group was formed in March of 2000. It is a diverse body containing over 100 representatives from well over 50 consumer electronic, computer, component, networking and software companies, as well as those from consultant organizations and academic institutions.

IEEE 802.15.3 enables many features most effectively provided by TDMA systems, such as the ability to support higher data throughput rates, quality of service (QoS), connection management (necessary to control access and use of the net so that QoS is maintained), advanced power management modes (allowing long and QoS synchronized sleep modes), ad-hoc and peer-to-peer topology support, mesh support, daughter network support, enhanced security support and many other useful features. This "clean sheet design" started with a good review and understanding of the market place and has incorporated many good elements of existing designs while keeping sight of its market segment. Products based on the new standard are expected in 2004 and will be supported in part by the WiMedia Alliance (www.wimedia.org).

IEEE P802.15.3 is being developed by the IEEE 802.15 working group for wireless PANs, and is sponsored by the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee of the IEEE Computer Society. For further information, visit http://www.ieee802.org/.

Wireless Market Shifting Back to Verticals

A recently completed study by In-Stat/MDR finds that wireless data adoption is growing in the business environment - just not with the "hockey-stick" growth curve that continually has been projected. The high tech market research firm's study, which was based on more than 1500 surveys with IT decision makers in the United States representing seven vertical markets, illustrates that implementation of wireless data in corporations is, in fact, likely greater than many people might expect. However, the extent and complexity of actual solutions within each organization vary significantly.

"Many companies have simple 'point' solutions (one device, one service, one application) in place today, while other deployments are far more intricate," says Becky Diercks, a director with In-Stat/MDR. "It is heartening to see the majority of current wireless data users plan expansion within the next few years, so growth will come not just from new installations, but also organically - from a greater number of subscribers within existing user companies." Success for vendor and service providers in this market today will require hard work as the wireless data market shifts back to focus on vertical markets rather than horizontal applications such as e-mail, and their needs are varied, diverse and often complex. Some of the earliest adopter industries - transportation and utilities as well as finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) - have put wireless data to broad use and have been able to realize the benefits from using the technology. The health care industry has a strong desire to do big things with the technology and yet its current implementation is rather limited today. Solutions must be tailored to meet each individual market's requirement.

In-Stat/MDR has also found that:

  • While it might be easy to summarily discount industries such as manufacturing in favor of more aggressive adopters such as transportation, In-Stat/MDR believes vendors must not make this mistake. The sheer size of companies in vertical markets such as manufacturing means that, although overall penetration within the industry is lower compared to others, the actual number of wireless WAN data subscribers is still actually higher than other vertical market segments.
  • Most current wireless data implementations rely on the cellular network, and often on private company networks, with lesser use of messaging and other technologies. The study also showed high implementation of wireless LANs in these companies, and it seems likely that these companies also will be excellent prospects for public wireless LAN services in the future.
  • While the research shows high usage of cellular phones as the wireless access devices of choice today, end user companies are focusing more attention on notebooks with wireless modems in the future.

UWB Set to Make Commercial Debut

With the absence of a currently available and standardized wireless technology that offers robust multimedia transport of multiple digital streams, Ultra-wideband (UWB) promises to be the technology that delivers the bandwidth and QoS that many consumer electronics companies have been looking for. In-Stat/MDR reports that, having seen the gap that WiFi is leaving in the home networking market, UWB proponents are realizing they must step up their development process to capitalize on this opportunity. As a result, a UWB standard is expected to be ratified by 1H 2005, and the high tech market research firm expects that standard-based end-products should roll out in late 2005 and 2006.

Ultra-wideband proponents have been scrambling to find their place in the commercial world since the FCC's historic ruling in February 2002. "Overall UWB has much potential in linking together entertainment devices within a home network, and also may serve to penetrate the business market through its expected penetration in the PC market," says Gemma Paulo, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR. "However, at this point, it is difficult to project the year in which UWB end-products will ship in volume."

It is assumed that only limited numbers of proprietary UWB end-products will go out, as a standard traditionally provides for a large number of vendors to get into the market relatively quickly, causing prices to drop fast. Consumer electronics companies are expected to have demonstrations of UWB-enabled end-products at the January 2004 consumer electronics show. These end-products are expected to be powered by proprietary chip sets from XtremeSpectrum, and perhaps from other UWB silicon vendors such as General Atomic and Wisair. Standards-based chip sets are expected to roll out once ratification of 802.15.3a is near, probably in the 2H 2004 - 1H 2005 time frame.

In-Stat/MDR has also found that:

  • It is expected that high end consumer electronics (CE) devices, such as flat panel displays, will be the first products to be UWB-enabled. External cards for lower cost CE devices and PC devices will follow. Consequently, continued chip set integration and falling costs over time will increasingly drive embedded UWB.
  • Naturally, many perceive UWB as a high bit WPAN option that will serve as a cable replacement technology, especially for high speed wired PAN connections such as USB 2.0 and 1394. The maximum data rate that is being considered for IEEE 802.15.3a is 480 Mbps, which matches that of USB 2.0.
  • Two major communications companies partnered with two UWB players in 2003. Motorola announced a relationship with XtremeSpectrum, and Phillips Semiconductors announced a partnership with General Atomics.
  • Interest in UWB extends to a wide variety of companies, including CE companies, networking vendors, IC component and processor specialists, and companies that deal in the imaging and printing markets. Meetings surrounding the IEEE 802.15.3a standards have been extremely well attended, with participants ranging from small UWB players to the likes of Intel, Samsung, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Sony and Broadcom.

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