Industry Canada has begun a public consultation on the introduction of ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless technology into the Canadian market – a development that is predicted will eventually eliminate wired connections in the home, including between the set-top box and the television. Industry Canada’s call for comments on a wide range of issues surrounding UWB comes nearly 18 months after the department said it would begin such discussions, and three years after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized limited commercial introduction of UWB products in the United States. Operating at low-power density, UWB communicates at high data rates over short distances, thus negating the need for cables to transmit high-bandwidth information such as high-definition (HD) television programming. The technology is used in different products, including military and commercial applications such as ground penetrating radar and vehicular radar system. But the most promising application appears to be as a replacement for wires on computers and consumer electronics goods in the home. “The way that we’re predicting it is that it will mainly be a PC and peripherals cable replacement technology initially, at least for the large markets. After the PC market, I think we will see UWB as a cable replacement for what USB is doing between digital camcorders and digital cameras and the home computer,” says Kurt Scherf of research firm Parks Associates. “I think the last leg of the stool in terms of larger market adoptability is going to be used for cable replacement on digital entertainment components, which would include digital HD set-top boxes as well as digital displays – televisions and things like that.” He predicts that it will be two years before a UWB solution that eliminates wires between the television and the set-top box or other applications such as high-definition receivers hit the market. “Of chief concern to many players in the CE (consumer electronics) world (set-top manufacturers serving the cable and satellite television industries, for example), is that, particularly when it comes to the high-throughput requirements for high-definition television (HDTV) streams in the home, the wireless solutions – as they exist in their present form – simply don’t have the overhead – or the throughput capacity – to provide for quality in-home broadcasts,” states The Park Associates white paper The Market for Ultra-Wideband Solutions authored by Scherf. “In specifically addressing the short-range and high-throughput connectivity of any number of devices in the home, UWB’s key attributes become quite attractive.” Scherf says first there has to be a build up in the volume of chip sets, and that the cost of implementing them in tens of thousands of units must fall from the current $25 to $30 each to $10 or $15 each. “I think in another couple of years that wireless is going to be much more widely accepted in the digital home electronics industry,” he notes. “I just think it will take some time to get those solutions out to market, get them fully tested, and find out how well they work, especially for high-definition video streaming. I think that’s going to be such a critical part of the competitive puzzle for the operators: how much high-definition programming do they have available, can it be recorded inside the home using a DVR (digital video recorder) that has a lot of storage capacity, and then the third question is how much of an ability will consumers be granted to move that high definition from one television set to another.” Scherf says that security problems and performance and cost concerns are causing U.S. companies to hesitate in rapidly deploying UWB solutions. Another difficulty is finding appropriate spectrum and implementing product operating parameters that would limit harmful interference to and from existing licensed systems. In the United States, the FCC allocated 7.5 GHz of spectrum (3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz) in which UWB could operate. The white paper estimates that UWB product shipments will grow from about 50 million at the end of 2003 to almost 150 million at the end of 2008. The report predicts that revenue derived from annual UWB chipsets is expected to surpass the US$1-billion mark by the end of 2009. Another factor that will likely delay the rollout of UWB is a battle over standards at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Scherf, however, says that the standards battle should only delay the introduction of UWB products by six to eight months. He tells Canadian Communications Reports that the first products will come out by the end of the year, or at the latest at the Consumer Electronics Show next January. Industry Canada has launched the consultation, in part, because authorizing UWB products, if not done properly, could cause interference. Existing licensees are worried that if Industry Canada allows for the introduction of UWB, the new products could cause harmful interference to traditional radiocommunication services. The department states in its notice, however, parties concerned about interference would prefer to see Industry Canada assign specific frequencies in which UWB products would operate. Industry Canada’s document, entitled Consultation Paper on the Introduction of Wireless Systems Using Ultra-wideband Technology, states that the UWB industry would like to operate low-power UWB systems on a licence-exempt basis across numerous frequency bands allocated to several radiocommunication services. Comments are due no later than May 6.