Ultra-wideband heads for the big time

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Analysts predict that the mainstream market launch of ultra-wideband (UWB) peripheral connection technology is imminent..

ABI Research said that UWB will see "very strong" growth in 2008, finding its first success in laptops and computer peripherals and eventually in mobile handsets.

Shipments of UWB-enabled devices will grow from virtually zero today to more than 400 million in 2013.

"The UWB market did not come out of the starting gates in 2006 as we had anticipated," said ABI senior analyst Douglas McEuen.

"There were several reasons for the delay, including a shakeout from three competing flavours of the technology to one and the absence of global standards."

ABI reckons that a million UWB devices will ship in 2007, rising "sharply" thereafter.

North America is expected to lead the market for some time to come, as an official UWB standard has now been ratified in the US.

The current "sweet spot" is UWB's application as a wireless USB enabler, connecting computers (especially notebooks) with printers, hard drives and other peripherals.

An initial UWB "hub and dongle" configuration will enable users to retrofit the vast number of existing PCs and related equipment with wireless connections.

UWB modules are just starting to appear in selected laptops (initially from Lenovo, Dell and Toshiba), but true silicon integration is expected to take more time.

Later, other kinds of consumer electronics such as digital cameras and camcorders, HD TVs and portable music devices will start to build the numbers.

"But real market acceleration will only occur when UWB debuts in mobile handsets, where it will be used, possibly bundled with Bluetooth, to transfer music, pictures and video files," said McEuen.

Even a small handset market penetration will deliver huge numbers, notes ABI.

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