FCC approves Ultra-Wideband Despite protest by airlines

The Federal Communications Commission two weeks ago approved commercial use of the Ultra-Wideband (UWB) over the strong objections of the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the nation`s leading airline trade association. But, the wireless industry continues to praise the FCC`s decision as a healthy boost for the development of high speed wireless networks.

The ATA had claimed that Ultra-Wideband devices could interfere with global positioning systems (GPS) that “provide for critical safety-of-flight functions.” The airline organization added that “to the bewilderment of aviation safety experts, proponents of UWB have not been required to demonstrate its safety. To the contrary, airlines and other aviation system users whose restricted safety-of-life spectrum will be affected have had to prove that UWB is unsafe. In the safety-oriented environment of aviation, this is an unheard of requirement.”

Capable of transmission speeds ten times faster than cable modems and applicable to a host of applications, Ultra-Wideband technology, just approved by the FCC for commercial use, could be a major boost for the wireless industry, according to Andrew M. Seybold in Forbes/Andrew Seybold`s Wireless Outlook.

“UWB is astounding stuff,`` Seybold said. “It can also provide very fine range resolution and precision distance and/or positioning measurements, which means that it can be used to obtain precise measurements between automobiles, for example.”

Among the applications Seybold identifies as potential winners are high-speed (20+ Mbps) wireless LANs and wide-area networks and altimeter and obstacle avoidance radios for commercial aviation.


“I think the FCC was right to allow use of this technology with the restrictions,” Seybold said. “It has permitted the creation of an entirely new set of devices and uses for the RF spectrum. New products and services will be available soon and some of the pioneering companies will be able to raise capital by going public. They will also create additional wealth ... and we`ll give you our take on which of the companies show the most promise.”

But, this enthusiasm was not shared by ATA President and CEO Carol Hallett. “Every other federal government agency is working diligently to enhance aviation safety and security in the aftermath of Sept. 11,” she said shortly before the FCC`s decision on UWB. “Yet, the FCC seems to be heading in the opposite direction.”

members transport over 95 percent of all the passenger and cargo traffic in the United States.

Hallett said there is a solution that the FCC could have accepted, and that would be to allow UWB devices to operate above 6 GHz and avoid restricted safety-of-life aviation frequencies. “No level or amount of interference - no matter how weak, intermittent or infrequent, is acceptable for aviation,” she said. “It is of paramount importance for the FCC to ensure that UWB technologies avoid any interference with transmissions in restricted spectrum bands. Anything else significantly threatens aviation safety-a risk too great to impose on the public.``

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