PULSERS Delivers on Phase 1 - Europe to Adopt a Ruling for Ultra-Wideband

by Walter Hirt

The Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) in the European Conference of Post and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) recently completed its public consultation on 'Harmonized conditions for devices using UWB technology in bands below 10.6 GHz'. This action represents an important step towards the introduction of a legal framework in Europe for this emerging - sometimes considered 'disruptive' - ultra-wideband radio technology (UWB-RT). Members of the IST-FP6 Integrated Project PULSERS, which is entirely focused on the advancement of UWB-RT, played an active role in the European regulatory process that led to this milestone result.

The IST-FP6 Integrated Project PULSERS is a consortium of thirty industrial and academic organizations, which was formed to promote UWB-RT: 'Optimally Connected Anywhere and Anytime'. In Phase 1 (2004-2005) of the project, PULSERS introduced and developed new concepts for future short-range wireless systems. The underlying UWB-RT is capable of supporting wireless communication and ranging and localization applications, in both traditional and novel use scenarios. When trading data rate versus range, the technology accommodates two complementary classes of systems: (i) systems offering high data rates (HDR) or very high data rates (VHDR) over links of up to a few metres, and (ii) systems supporting low data rates (LDR) alone or combined with location tracking (LDR-LT), covering distances up to tens of metres (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Envisaged application scenarios for short-range wireless systems based on UWB-RT (see also D. Porcino and W. Hirt, 'Ultra-Wideband Radio Technology: Potential and Challenges Ahead,' IEEE Commun. Mag., July 2003, pp. 66-74; the WBAN illustration is courtesy of the WWRF).

PULSERS conceived HDR/VHDR systems to support a number of applications in the home and office environments, such as wireless video connections and wireless high-speed connections for computing equipment. The newly introduced class of LDR-LT devices combines low-rate data-transfer capabilities with precise ranging and location tracking, particularly for indoor environments; these features are increasingly being requested in wireless sensing and control applications. During the first two years of the project, PULSERS established significant results in the following technical areas:

Regulation and Standards
A specific work package in PULSERS addressed the complex issues related to the spectrum regulation and technical standardization of UWB-RT. UWB-RT is often referred to as a 'disruptive' radio technology because the premise of UWB-RT is founded on reusing frequency bands already assigned to incumbent radiocommunication services. This is done by spreading signals of very low power (ie less than one thousandth of the power emitted by a cellular phone) over bandwidths of up to several Gigahertz. Understandably therefore, spectrum-granting administrations, licence-holding operators and other stakeholders of spectrum resources have expressed their concerns that UWB-RT will interfere with existing and future (viz. 4G) radiocommunication services.

Members of PULSERS have addressed these legitimate concerns through technical studies, and the results have been made available to European and other international bodies engaged in UWB-related harmonization processes. This required close cooperation with key external industrial organizations promoting the deployment of UWB-RT (eg WiMedia Alliance and UWB Forum). In addition, members of PULSERS maintained a constructive liaison with the European Commission's DG INFSO B4 (Radio Spectrum Policy). DG INFSO B4 holds the authoritative stakes for the final decision on the regulatory conditions that will govern the deployment of UWB-RT in the European Union. It was significant that the Electronic Communications Committee in the CEPT (European Conference of Post and Tele-communications Administrations) recently completed its public consultation on the 'Harmonized conditions for devices using UWB technology in bands below 10.6 GHz'. While the final outcome of this action is still pending, this action represents an important step towards the introduction of a legal framework in Europe for UWB-RT, which is now scheduled for mid 2006.

The prospects for arriving at a commercially viable UWB-spectrum regulation in Europe are therefore intact, albeit not to the same extent as in the United States of America, where the legal use and marketing of UWB-RT was authorized in early 2002. A technically and commercially sound regulatory framework for UWB-RT needs to be established in Europe: one that also accommodates the protection needs of affected spectrum stakeholders. This is a key prerequisite for the successful introduction of harmonized technical standards and essential for establishing a viable European ecosystem based on UWB-RT. A favourable status quo of UWB-RT in Europe and beyond would provide significant benefits to consumers and businesses alike and would help to sustain the success of PULSERS in Phase 2.


Please contact:
Walter Hirt, IBM Research GmbH, Switzerland
Tel: +41 44 724 8477
E-mail: hir@zurich.ibm.com