Using Ultra Wideband Networks for Wireless Communications

Instructor: Stephen Perkins

Stephen is a technology and electronics expert who has a passion for the work that he does.

Ultra-Wideband Communications are not new and undoubtedly not very well known either, but it has been necessary for the industry. This lesson will take you through its history, real-world uses, and where it is most useful.

What Ultra-Wideband Communications Are

As the name implies, ultra-wideband communications (UWB) operate over a wide range of frequency channels where short pulses of information can be sent at one time. Those pulses of radio frequencies can be anywhere from the 500 MHz range and beyond, making for a very vast spectrum of uses for real-world uses and applications. It can be used to transmit a high volume of data with low power consumption over short distances with a maximum range of 230 feet with range extender hardware.

History

UWB can be traced all the way back to the early 1900s but was very primitive in the early days. However, it made a massive comeback in the 1970s for military use in conjunction with radar systems. From there, the development scene was quiet, although that should change very soon. UWB may not be new by any means, but modern-day advancements are allowing for it to be revived in a big way in our current world of technology.

Primary Advantages of UWB

  • Low power consumption
  • High data rate transfers
  • Less radio interference
  • Can penetrate almost any material

Primary Disadvantages of UWB

  • Potentially higher cost in some fields
  • Adoption rate will be slower on the consumer side
  • Not practical for general consumer use

Real-World Uses of UWB

  • Wireless video
  • Wireless printers
  • Wireless monitors
  • P2P
  • Device-free data transfers
  • Geolocation

How UWB Compares to Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is the most common and versatile of all the wireless technologies we use for our many wireless devices. Wi-Fi is pretty good at transmitting a wireless signal for a decent distance (150 feet indoors on average), while UWB excels at short distances, much like Bluetooth. The short wave pulses allow for much higher accuracy than Wi-Fi, so it is perfect for indoor tracking in particular. Since UWB operates over a low-powered broad spectrum of frequencies, this helps make for a noise-free wireless signal that is capable of high rates of data transfer. The Wi-Fi standard only operates within the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, which limits the potential stability in comparison to UWB.

Will UWB Replace Wi-Fi?

The Wi-Fi standard is more practical in our homes since it has already caught up to some of the things that make UWB so unique, such as wireless transfer speeds (averaging 70 to 100+ Mbps on the 802.11ac standard). We mostly expect UWB to make great strides in the industrial, commercial, and typical work environment.

As of now, it is highly doubtful that we will see UWB replace the Wi-Fi standard as the primary wireless driving force in our home networks. Wi-Fi is already in our homes and is evolving at such a rapid pace with new functions that it would be impractical to suddenly shift to a UWB home-based network. For example, the future Wi-Fi standards (802.11ah and 802.11af) are explicitly targeting future IoT devices with low power with long-range potential.

UWB Could Benefit IoT Devices

Since UWB can offer very high data rates with low amounts of interference, this could potentially help drive IoT devices into the future of computing. IoT devices continuously send and receive information, so we need constant access between those devices and the access point. It becomes essential in that situation to be able to keep that connection at all times. UWB could potentially help move IoT devices forward, but it is hard to predict if anything will come from this. The Wi-Fi industry is catching up and is ready to challenge the IoT industry head-on, which might end up hindering any need for UWB altogether.

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