Every consumer wants to live a "life without wires." The great promise of ultrawideband is that it can deliver on this desire. It is no wonder, then, that Patrick Mannion justifiably rails against the UWB stalemate in the IEEE, appealing to both sides to do what is best for "the greater good" (Feb. 14, page 4). His suggestion is a Solomonic compromise of "splitting the baby" and agreeing to a dual-physical-layer standard. But is this really for the greater good?
Alereon is a founding member of the Multiband OFDM Alliance, has been active in the IEEE for many years and is the only company demonstrating 480-Mbit/second MBOA PHY silicon at this time. If you compare the membership of the MBOA with backers of other forms of UWB, it is clear that the MBOA has already established itself as a true UWB industry standard. The membership is a veritable who's who of the PC, cell phone, consumer electronics, portable electronics and semiconductor industries. Dozens of companies have worked together to develop the MBOA PHY and MBOA MAC specifications.
For the MBOA, agreeing to a dual PHY is not a Solomonic act for the greater good but a cowardly choice that would saddle the consumer with silicon solutions that are twice as expensive as they need to be, all in the name of compromise. The payoff for this apparent victory is saving the time and travel of a few more IEEE meetings. In Alereon's view, the extra time and cost are well-spent if ultimately the effort yields one standard that doesn't cost consumers any more than it needs to.
The MBOA SIG has clearly established itself as the industry standard. It is reasonable to expect that as compelling applications such as wireless USB become available that work in conjunction with the MBOA standard, market-driven companies like Freescale will be compelled to provide MBOA solutions. They will offer their customers a choice.
In any new marketplace, there are always niche vertical-market applications that are nonstandard. That fact won't confuse the PC or cell phone or CE or portable-CE manufacturers (which are all members of the MBOA).
The UWB "circus" isn't as confusing as it may appear. In the center ring of the big top, the MBOA is cheered on by nearly every industry giant except Freescale and Motorola. As with any circus, there is a sideshow; this one is attended by a few consultants. At this point, however, there is no doubt about the main attraction.
All IEEE participants would like to see the deadlock end. Alereon and the MBOA would prefer, however, either to wait it out until there is a single, low-cost, unified standard that truly serves the common good or, if it comes to it, to see the IEEE Project Authorization Request closed.