Wireless USB for portable devices?

Paul Boughton

Wireless USB, based on the Wimedia Alliance's Ultrawideband (UWB) common radio platform that is promoted by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), is slowly garnering attention from mobile device manufacturers.

It is capable of transmitting data at rates of up to 480Mbps over distances of up to 3m, and 110Mbps at up to 10m. It is gradually being implemented in game controllers, digital cameras, portable media players (PMPs) and laptops. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has also announced that the next version of Bluetooth is to be based on Wimedia's UWB common radio platform.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, 'Impact of UWB on Mobile Device Communications,' finds that UWB is the most attractive emerging technology that can satisfy the power-efficiency and data rate demands of mobile device users.

Venkat Malleypula, a Frost & Sullivan technical insights industry analyst, comments: "The interaction between devices such as cell phones, smart phones, digital cameras, portable media players, laptops, high-definition televisions (HDTVs) and computers is burgeoning. We are also witnessing rapid growth in the memory capacity of mobile devices such as mobile phones and PMPs."

As a result, people frequently transfer multimedia content between mobile devices and computers. Current-generation wireless technologies are not suitable for sharing multimedia content due to their power and data rate limitations. This has created a need for a wireless technology that can enable high data transmission rates while consuming very little power.

Achyuthanandan S, another Frost & Sullivan analyst, adds: "Existing wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are not suitable for transferring large files, as they can drain the battery at a rapid pace. UWB, on the other hand, is popular for its low power consumption and is slowly becoming the technology of choice for enabling the convergence of the disparate segments of data, entertainment and mobile communications."

However, for UWB to make inroads into small-sized mobile devices segments, the chipsets need to be extremely small. This is a key challenge that will determine the future of UWB in mobile devices, barring laptops and notebook PCs. Furthermore, although UWB is an extremely low-power technology, its power efficiency is yet to be proved in mobile devices.

Malleypula says: "Mobile device manufacturers are looking at average power consumption levels of one milliwatt/Mb when the device is active and zero power consumption when the device is in standby. Such targets are yet to be achieved by UWB-based mobile devices and only a proven solution can convince people to shift to UWB-based mobile devices."

Given these challenges, UWB chipset manufacturers need to strive toward designing small-sized chipsets that could slot into current-generation mobile devices. Furthermore, although it is cited as a low-power technology, its efficiency in terms of power needs to be demonstrated through a product in the market. This entirely lies in the hands of the chipset and mobile device manufacturers. Additionally, the Wimedia Alliance and chipset manufacturers must work toward bringing the cost of chipsets to as low as $5 or below to ensure that cost does not deter UWB's adoption.

'Impact of UWB on Mobile Device Communications' is part of the Technical Insights program from Frost & Sullivan. It provides a technology overview and outlook for UWB technology. Furthermore, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

Impact of UWB on Mobile Device Communications