CES: Motorola gets Samsung support in UWB debate

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. threw its weight behind Motorola Inc.'s XtremeSpectrum chipset for ultrawideband (UWB) wireless technology Thursday, announcing it will use the chipset to transmit multiple high-definition television (HDTV) streams during a demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show.

In what the companies are calling an industry first, they will demonstrate three simultaneous HDTV streams from a home media server to multiple displays. Motorola acquired chipset vendor XtremeSpectrum in December and is currently sampling the chipset to partners.

With the growing number of consumer electronics companies pitching wireless media adapters and other home networking devices, the chip industry is looking to UWB to create high-speed short-range wireless networks. But as is the case with many cutting-edge technologies, different companies have different ideas about how best to implement the technology, and compete fiercely to have their technology adopted as a standard.

A draft of the UWB standard is currently under development by a working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the same organization that ratified the 802.11 standards for wireless LANs.

Motorola's XtremeSpectrum chipset is based on a method called direct-sequence CDMA (code division multiple access). That method competes with a different proposal from Texas Instruments Inc. that uses technology called multiband OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing).

The XtremeSpectrum approach spreads the UWB signals traveling from device to device across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz, which is the range approved for UWB by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Because the signal is spread so widely, the transmissions are less likely to cause interference with other wireless devices, according to XtremeSpectrum's Web site. A Motorola representative was not immediately available for comment.

TI, which is backed by an industry consortium that includes Intel Corp., chose to divide that spectrum range into bands of spectrum measuring 528MHz wide. This allows the signal to hop back and forth between those channels if interference presents a problem, "sculpting" the available spectrum to best suit the environment in which the technology is used, said Steve Turner, director of business development for UWB at TI.

Both approaches hope to enable transmission speeds as fast as 500M bps (bits per second) across distances of around 1 to 2 meters, Turner said. The two approaches have been whittled down from more than 20 submitted to the IEEE working group last year, and the group is set to meet next week to discuss the proposals again, he said.

In order to be ratified, 75 percent of the working group members have to approve the standard. TI has thus far only managed to get about 60 percent of the tally in two prior votes, Turner said.

When a standard eventually is ratified, UWB is poised to become the primary method for transferring data among devices such as personal digital assistants, PCs and cell phones. Bluetooth, which is the current standard for short-range wireless networking, is slower than UWB and is expected to be used for less bandwidth-intensive applications such as wireless keyboards or mice, Turner said.

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