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Issue #2003 - 21 (July 2003)
(Updated July 17, 2003)


Evolving Standards in Wi-Fi - Would 802.11b Survive?

CIR, a market research company based in Charlottesville, VA, suggests that transition from Wi-Fi standards are evolving fast. IEEE 802.11g is becoming the popular standard.

However, 802.11b still has quite a bit of life from an end user perspective. According the company, it would not be before 2005 before 802.11g overtakes utilization of 802.11g in products shipped by vendors. 
From the point of view of product availability, it appears that IEEE 802.11b will continue to be predominant for another 24 months.

Life After Wi-Fi and Bluetooth - Would UWB and Zigbee Replace it?

No technology is for ever, especially in fast-evolving wireless world. In a report prepared by West Technology Research Solutions (WTRS), the research firm predicts ultrawideband (UWB) will eventually beat out both the current Wi-Fi wireless networking standard and Bluetooth, while the open standard ZigBee protocol will enable every system in the house to talk to each other. 

The firm said Ultrawideband, or UWB, would eventually eclipse the popular 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, networking protocol that is spreading in use across the country, helped by rollouts of wireless Internet access in Starbucks coffee houses and McDonald's Restaurants. 

In yet another report, the firm predicts that the Zigbee Protocol, which promotes the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for low-power wireless applications, will become ubiquitous and dominant in two-way low data-rate wireless applications for the home. 

UWB works in what is sometimes called the "garage door spectrum," the unlicensed frequency of the spectrum commonly used for garage door openers, portable telephones and baby monitors. But its high speed data transit capabilities of 40 to 60 megabits per second, in some cases nearly ten times as fast as Wi-Fi, low power requirements, its ability to penetrate walls, and use GPRS information make UWB an attractive option for all kinds of handy machine-to-machine communications. 

UWB's data throughput potential, and its ability to support a piconet, an ad hoc network of devices using the Bluetooth networking standard, means it has the potential to displace technologies used in local area networks, WTRS' Ultrawideband Market Report said. UWB's impact could be just as dramatic on technologies used in personal area networks and, eventually, even the CDMA (code division multiple access) cellular networking standard that is deployed by many U.S. cellular carriers, the report continued. 

Already, consumer electronics manufacturers are experimenting with UWB, according to WTRS principle Kirsten West. "Streaming video to the television set wirelessly is the hot application they're working on right now," West said. UWB will also become the standard for the home gateway, the control center for automating everything from the security, heating and lighting systems to remote controlled appliances and home entertainment centers. 

In office buildings, UWB is expected to replace 802.11b networking protocols because of its penetration abilities. "Walls, cubicles and people can all interfere with 802.11 technologies," West said. "UWB doesn't have this problem." She estimates that Wi-Fi companies will enjoy about a ten-year run of sales before UWB technologies begin to disrupt their products. 

The report also said that a number of manufacturers plan to make UWB-enabled cell phones in order to provide the same kinds of short-range networking features and functions that Bluetooth can provide. 

UWB has the potential to wipe out current contenders in wireless local area networks and -- eventually -- wireless wide area networks, according to West. Right now, today's UWB-enabled chips have a range of only around 30 feet, but that's due to a cap on the amount of power they can be transmit. West said that the Federal Communications Commission may change that cap, which would allow telcos to replace their CDMA cellular towers with the cheaper, more powerful UWB chips. 

Meanwhile, West says in her ZigBee Market Report and Analysis that Zigbee could take over from the mess of non-standard transceivers now being used for home automation. The evolving open standard has a radio frequency range of 30 to 225 feet and uses very little power. "It won't become a household name, from a consumer's point of view, but it will be important for manufacturers because their products will work with others. You need the ability for connection among machines from various OEMs." 

For example, a Whirlpool smart washer and a GE smart refrigerator will be able to communicate with the same home gateway. The report predicts that by 2006, annual shipments for ZigBee-based chipsets for home automation alone will exceed 46 million units and continue to grow rapidly. 

Source: CIR and InternetNews

For more information: http://www.internetnews.com

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: CIR is right in pointing out that there is still a lot of life left in 802.11b. From end user perspective, IEEE 802.11b is proven, software drivers are pretty-well debugged,  is cheaper and covers wider areas as compared to its faster sibling IEEE 802.11g. If your application needs speeds faster than 802.11b and your coverage requirements are moderate, go for 802.11g. If you are chip designer and manufacturer, milk the 802.11b production facilities till demand slackens. If you are a software designer, just watch the trend, listen to the debate and build support for both standards. It will be a while before we have only standard. Remember, there is alphabet after "g".

As far as  WTRS report's findings regarding UWB and Zigbee are concerned, watch the two technologies carefully. Both technologies have a lot of potential but please do not follow the herd and take every word of a report as gospel. If you see a lot of noise in the market about one technology, pay attention to it. UWB certainly is promising. But we do not expect Zigbee to overtake Bluetooth in the short or mid term. For the long term, there will be more news coming down the pipe - confirming the trend or discarding it like many technologies that did not make the grade.

Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.

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