Ultrawideband comes to handsets
South Korean wireless carrier SK Telecom has announced plans to use Staccato Communications’ ultrawideband platform to deliver the first UWB personal area network services via mobile phone in late 2007.
Most industry pundits did not expect such an announcement involving a large mobile carrier using UWB — a low-power technology that can transmit hundreds of megabits per second over ranges less than 10 meters — until 2008 or 2009. But the availability of UWB in a single-chip CMOS package accelerated the process, along with the fact that SK Telecom is willing to utilize Staccato’s first-generation Ripcord chips, said Mark Bowles, Staccato co-founder and vice president of business development and marketing.
“These guys are saying the first-generation stuff — all of which operates below 6 GHz — is fine, whereas it has been widely claimed that carriers didn’t want ultrawideband in a handset until we got to the second generation, which operates above 6 GHz,” Bowles said. “SKT looked at it and said, ‘It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t interfere, so we don’t care.’”
SK Telecom plans to use UWB to offer services that let mobile phones transfer large files — including movies — to and from other devices, including televisions and computers, Bowles said. The strategy is designed to increase customer loyalty, which reduces churn and increases the carrier’s average revenue per user.
“I think the big lightbulb that went on for [SK Telecom officials] was that ultrawideband PAN connections are not a threat to their revenue streams, but they can monetize them and address the things they really care about,” Bowles said.
Although SK Telecom will begin the rollout of UWB services in 2007, large volumes of UWB chips likely will not be shipped until 2008, Bowles said. While Staccato and the rest of the UWB community is working hard to make UWB more power efficient while in sleep mode, the future of the technology looks bright in both the mobile phone and LAN arenas, he said.
“There’s no more efficient way — wired or wireless — to get from point A to point B than ultrawideband,” Bowles said. “When our radios are on and transmitting, we have the best milliwatts-per-megabits transfer numbers that you can measure anywhere. It’s orders of magnitude better than Bluetooth — not to mention the fact that it would take forever for Bluetooth to transfer a movie — it’s four or five times better than Wi-Fi, and it’s better than wired interfaces like USB.”