Wireless USB refers to the Certified Wireless USB (WUSB) standard based on ultrawideband (UWB) technology that is compliant with WiMedia Alliance specifications. The subject of discussion for several years, WUSB finally hit the market in 2007 in notebook PCs from Dell and Lenovo, and in hub and dongle solutions from Belkin, IOGear and D-Link. The debut of these devices was a bit inauspicious, with relatively few devices shipping worldwide in 2007. However, the beginnings of a new wireless ecosystem have launched, and should lead to increased shipments in the years ahead.
Wireless USB is based on the same host/device architecture as wired USB, so the PC is the center of WUSB world. The Dell and Lenovo releases mark a promising start. But the question for WUSB is: Where next? In wired USB, there was a natural progression from PCs to PC peripherals to Consumer Electronics (CE) and mobile phones. However, wired USB was significantly less expensive than WUSB, which made it an easy decision to add for vendors of even the most price-sensitive PC peripheral and CE vendors. A WUSB chip solution, on the other hand, currently sells for over $10, even in high volumes. This makes it very difficult for these same vendors to add, especially when there is no guarantee that WUSB will penetrate the vast majority of the PC market, as wired USB did. These relatively high ASPs will make WUSB adoption a relatively long-term process.
As UWB chip companies gear up production and ASPs decline, additional PC, PC peripheral and CE vendors will adopt the application. Notebook PCs will lead the adoption of WUSB. Within the PC peripheral market, there will be some interest from vendors for applications such as printers, multifunction peripherals and external hard disk drives. In the CE market, digital still cameras, digital camcorders and portable media players (PMP) should adopt WUSB in limited quantities over the next few years. However, significant WUSB adoption in these markets will not occur until WUSB chip solution ASPs come down to about half of their current levels. The competition for WUSB is fierce. It comes from other WiMedia UWB-based standards, such as Bluetooth over UWB and IP over UWB. However, the toughest competition for WUSB will come from Wi-Fi. A proven, inexpensive technology that has been through several generations, Wi-Fi is in every mobile PC shipping today, and has made inroads into many PC peripheral and CE applications, as well as into mobile phones. In addition, Intel’s efforts to make Wi-Fi more Wireless PAN-friendly are directly aimed at WUSB. Ultimately though, UWB and WUSB will succeed because they solve problems that no other technology can; the ability to transmit large amounts of data over short distances from one device to another with relative power efficiency.