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1.2 History and Background

Ultra-wideband communications is fundamentally different from all other communication techniques because it employs extremely narrow RF pulses to communicate between transmitters and receivers. Utilizing short-duration pulses as the building blocks for communications directly generates a very wide bandwidth and offers several advantages, such as large throughput, covertness, robustness to jamming, and coexistence with current radio services (see Section 1.4).

Ultra-wideband communications is not a new technology; in fact, it was first employed by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901 to transmit Morse code sequences across the Atlantic Ocean using spark gap radio transmitters. However, the benefit of a large bandwidth and the capability of implementing multiuser systems provided by electromagnetic pulses were never considered at that time.

Approximately fifty years after Marconi, modern pulse-based transmission gained momentum in military applications in the form of impulse radars. Some of the pioneers of modern UWB communications in the United States from the late 1960s are Henning Harmuth of Catholic University of America and Gerald Ross and K. W. Robins of Sperry Rand Corporation [2]. From the 1960s to the 1990s, this technology was restricted to military and Department of Defense (DoD) applications under classified programs such as highly secure communications. However, the recent advancement in microprocessing and fast switching in semiconductor technology has made UWB ready for commercial applications. Therefore, it is more appropriate to consider UWB as a new name for a long-existing technology.

As interest in the commercialization of UWB has increased over the past several years, developers of UWB systems began pressuring the FCC to approve UWB for commercial use. In February 2002, the FCC approved the First Report and Order (R&O) for commercial use of UWB technology under strict power emission limits for various devices. Sections 1.9 and 1.10 present a detailed recent history of the standardization and worldwide regulation of UWB technology. Figure 1-1 summarizes the development timeline of UWB.

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Figure 1-1 A brief history of UWB developments

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