What is Ultra Wideband?

Brendan McGuigan

Ultra wideband technologies are simply technologies that make use of a very large amount of bandwidth, usually exceeding speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbit/s). Ultra wideband usually refers to a form of wireless technology, but it may also be used to discuss wired or cabled forms of large-bandwidth communication. Ultra wideband technology uses extremely short-duration pulses, lasting from a few trillionths of a second to a few billionths of a second each. The resulting wave has a very broad band, and can be used to transmit immense amounts of information over short distances.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Because ultra wideband tends to shorter distances, and because of the affordable large bandwidth, ultra wideband is mostly being considered for applications such as digital video cameras, printers, and device-to-device transfer between items like portable music players and cellular telephones. Many people are investigating the potential for ultra broadband to make truly synched devices a reality, with cell phones, personal computers, and personal organizers all seamlessly sharing data. In the near future, consumer devices such as televisions, laptops and desktops, stereo systems, speakers, and home appliances may all be outfitted with ultra wideband capability. This would allow, for example, a home theatre system without any connecting cables, with ultra wideband transmitting video information from a media player or computer to a screen and sound information to speakers spread throughout the room.

Ultra wideband has a number of advantages over other similar technologies. One of the most important of these advantages is its ability to relatively easily share spectrum space with other devices. Since their frequencies are so adaptive, the devices can easily switch around to find an open range in which to transmit. This eliminates worries that exist with some technologies that a device operating on large bandwidth might interfere with the functioning of other devices in the area. Ultra wideband is also able to penetrate walls much more easily than many other traditional wireless technologies, making it useful for transmitting data wirelessly in large buildings.

In spite of its many advantages, there are some applications for which more traditional technologies excel. For example, although ultra wideband can handle a great deal of bandwidth, for uses where speeds well in excess of 10 Gbits/s are needed, most existing ultra wideband technologies cannot compete with optical wireless or optical fiber technologies.

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