Imagine getting rid of the tangled cables that link the printer to the computer, the DVD player to the television set and the digital camera to the laptop, and replacing them with high-speed wireless connections.
Imagine that the same wireless technology could be used to help the police find fugitives hiding behind walls and people trapped in collapsed buildings, or even prevent cars from colliding.
And imagine that all that could be done at a small fraction of the cost of establishing cellular and land-line telecommunication networks.
That's the hype for ultra-wideband, a radio technology that supporters hope will be in wide use within 18 months.
Ultra-wideband uses frequencies that are assigned to wireless-telephone companies and federal agencies. The signals share those frequencies in rapid pulses at very low power. They are strongest within 33 feet but can travel up to 328 feet.
Industry groups and telecommunications companies opposed ultra-wideband because, they argued, it could disrupt radar detectors, Global Positioning System devices and other wireless equipment. The Defense and Transportation departments expressed concern about interference with military and air-traffic-control systems.
Tests by the Federal Communications Commission suggested that interference would not be a problem if ultra-wideband systems operated between 3.1 gigahertz and 10.6 GHz at restricted power. In February, the FCC approved limited commercial development of ultra-wideband.
Edmond Thomas, chief of the FCC's office of engineering and technology, said the commission will have to make more decisions about ultra-wideband in order to balance support for new technologies.
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