Nearly six years to the day after the process was started, it looks like the IEEE is honing in on a single standard for a fast (around 100 Mbit/s), short-range (< 10m), low-power, low-cost wireless communication. The standard, which will be IEEE 802.15.3a, comes out of the IEEE Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) working group. Unlike cellular or Wi-Fi networks, the point of a personal area network is to communicate with other devices that are there in the room with you. For example, a high-speed WPAN would allow your PDA to stream video directly to a large-screen TV. Alternatively, your core CPU could wirelessly communicate with medical sensors, control buttons, displays and ear-pieces, all distributed around the body. The standard fills much the same niche as Bluetooth (the first standard adopted by the working group, also known as 802.15.1), but the new technology is significantly faster than Bluetooth (up to 100 times faster, according to champions of the technology).
Trade news columnists who know more than I do about this are picking Texas Instruments’ proposal for OFDM UWB (that’s Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing Ultra Wide Band, thank you for asking) as the likely technology to be picked. Assuming it does, TI’s UWB business development manager says we can expect to see the first UWB products hitting the marketplace in 2005.
Update: The standard did not receive enough votes to pass, and will be voted on again in mid-September.