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1.9 The Regulatory Situation [7]

1.9.1 Current FCC Regulations

On February 14, 2002, the FCC ruled to open up an unprecedented amount of bandwidth for commercial development of UWB technology. After much lobbying on both sides to either reduce or tighten the FCC restrictions, the FCC agreed to the requests of a wide range of supporters. Thus, a year later in February 2003, the FCC's release of a Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) assured developers that UWB is here to stay. These supporters run the gamut from leading companies in the home networking arena; to consumer electronics giants such as Philips Electronics and Samsung Electronics; to personal computing heavyweights such as Intel, Texas Instruments, and Microsoft; and to a growing number of UWB developers such as Multispectral Solutions, Pulse~LINK, Staccato Communications, Time Domain Corporation, and XtremeSpectrum, as well as several U.S. organizations such as the Ground Penetrating Radar Industry Coalition (GPRIC).

The FCC spectral mask (that is, the operating restrictions for UWB in the United States) specifies 7.5 GHz of usable spectrum bandwidth between 3.1 GHz and 10.6 GHz for communications devices. The FCC also protects existing users operating within this spectrum by limiting the UWB signal's transmit power. The UWB devices' power spectral density levels are limited to –41.3 dBm/MHz. The primary difference between indoor and outdoor operation is the higher degree of attenuation required for the out-of-band region for outdoor operations. This further protects GPS receivers, centered at 1.6 GHz. Previously at an IEEE meeting in July 2003, the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA) and Motorola/XtremeSpectrum groups had argued over whether or not the MBOA can use a frequency-hopping technique and still meet the 802.15.3a's data and range requirements while remaining in compliance with the FCC's stated declarations on how frequency-hopping systems should be tested. While the FCC has set precedents in terms of changing the rules according to newly defined IEEE standards (for example, 802.11), few rules were as strongly debated as those for UWB. Adding to this complexity is the fact that the original UWB opponents are continuing to debate the original FCC rules [8].

In September 2003, the FCC passed on the burden to the Task Group 3a to prove that any UWB standard developed remains within the anticipated levels reflected in the current rules. This action has heated up an increasingly contentious situation between the two groups. Although UWB detractors continue to lobby, UWB is here to stay and developers are pushing on.

1.9.2 Worldwide Regulatory Efforts

Currently, UWB is legal only in the United States; however, international regulatory bodies are considering possible rules and emission limits that would help enable worldwide operation of UWB devices. Intel is working with local regulatory efforts in Japan, Europe, and China to achieve regulations similar to those produced by the FCC. Harmonized worldwide regulations would provide a significant benefit for UWB technology, allowing devices to be carried around the world without service interruption.

Although regulatory bodies outside the United States have been more skeptical of the viability and legality of UWB, there are many efforts under way to change this. The FCC guidelines are forming the template for global regulatory rulings, with Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Singapore all interested in adhering closely to the ruling. Regulatory approval in Europe and Asia is expected soon, based on the aggressive efforts of Intel, Philips, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, and Motorola/XtremeSpectrum, as well as startups such as Wisair.


Europe has several UWB projects under way, such as Ultra-wideband Concepts for Ad hoc Networks (UCAN), the Ultra Wideband Audio Video Entertainment System (ULTRAWAVES), and Pervasive Ultra-wideband Low Spectral Energy Radio Systems (PULSERS). [8] These efforts are driven by companies such as STMicroelectronics, Philips, Wisair, and XtremeSpectrum. UCAN has published reports concentrating on UWB channel propagation loss, medium access control (MAC) and routing protocols, as well as a strategy for path selection. Some UCAN partners are involved in the preparation of an FP6 (6th Framework of the EU-IST Program) Integrated Project: PULSERS. Philips and Wisair are leading the PULSERS and ULTRAWAVES project. ULTRAWAVES' objective is to provide high-performance and low-cost wireless home connectivity solutions, supporting applications requiring home multistreaming of high-quality video and broadband multimedia. One of the major goals is to validate ULTRAWAVES' approach, coexistence issues, and other implementation issues in different layers. Partners include Wisair, Philips, ENSTA-Armines (a top engineering school in Paris), RadioLabs, Chalmers University of Technology, and the Centre for Wireless Communications at the University of Oulu, Finland.

Although UWB does not fit the usual regulatory paradigm, the European Community policy is to be permissive and not block or delay technologies because they don't fit in a paradigm. The European Resuscitation Council (ERC) is developing an outline for when short-range devices (including ultra-wideband systems) can be operated under special conditions.


In September 2002, after prodding from companies such as XtremeSpectrum, Texas Instruments, Intel, Sony, Sharp, and Panasonic, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT) in Japan placed an inquiry with the Telecommunications Council on "Technical Conditions for UWB Radio Systems." At the time, the Telecommunications Council was to report this one year later. However, the status on this is not yet known.

In April 2003, Intel researchers worked with regulators from the MPHPT in order to allow the first public UWB transmission in Japan, which took place at the Intel Developer Forum.


Since February 2003, Singapore has initiated a UWB program through its Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). The aim of the two-year UWB program was to encourage UWB experimentation through the introduction of trial regulations, to gather experimental data to determine regulations that will enable future commercial deployment, and to create an ecosystem of UWB players and users. The IDA will introduce regulations to permit controlled UWB emissions within a Science Park area as well as hosting a series of UWB compatibility studies. The UWB program permits experimentation with more relaxed rules than those of the FCC, in terms of emission limits and in the mode of operation. For instance, trial licensees will have the freedom to operate the devices indoors and outdoors, with no restrictions on whether the devices should be battery or AC-powered.

In April 2003, Singapore scientists at the Institute for Infocomm Research demonstrated an FCC-compliant UWB wireless link that successfully transmitted and received data at speeds exceeding 500 Mbps over a four-foot range, doubling the international record of 220 Mbps rate achieved.

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