Back in the mid-90s, I had a chance to sit down with Marty Cooper, who led the group that developed cellular technology at Motorola. At the time, the US wireless sector was in turmoil as it moved from analog to digital. People around the US were bickering over whether CDMA, TDMA, or GSM were the best options for moving to 2G networks.
When talking about CDMA vs. GSM, vs. TDMA, Cooper felt that the bickering should stop and that the market should choose the right technology. In the end, that's what happened but as a side effect, the US sector also began to lag behind Japan, where all new wireless technologies rollout first, and Europe, where all new technologies rollout second. And, the US has been playing catch up ever since.
You have to wonder if a similar scenario will emerge in the ultrawideband (UWB) sector. Now, with Pulse-Link's new UWB technology announcement last week, we have three distinct UWB specs in the market and no one can seem to agree on what standard to choose. And now the prevailing thought is that UWB backers should fight it out in the market, bringing back memories of Cooper's comments from years ago.
On some levels, I agree that the market should decide what UWB technology wins and what doesn't. But, letting market choose has two key implications that US-based companies need to closely evaluate.
The first is that it will slow down the overall adoption of UWB technology around the world. Second, it could put US developers at a disadvantage once again, opening the door for new technologies to emerge and win in the Asian and European markets, leaving US developers in a situation where they will again have to play catch-up. In a market where margins will be tight, falling behind could be a lethal blow.
In the end, US-based UWB backers need to realize that letting the market choose may not be the best approach. Thus, it's time to drop the boxing gloves, head back to the IEEE, and iron out a spec.
Editor's Note: What's your take on the impact of the Pulse-Link announcement and on the need for a single UWB spec? Let us know in our UWB discussion forum