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.